Two 3-year-old children drowned yesterday when they fell into a lake near their homes in West Springfield.

Gregory Liveris and Mercedes Lopes, playmates and neighbors, wandered away from their homes and were found in Huntsman Lake. Police said they apparently had fallen through a thin coating of ice that remained near the shoreline despite the warm weather of the past two days.

Their mothers had searched their Orange Hunt neighborhood for about 45 minutes before Michelle Liveris found her son face down in the lake about 4:30 p.m., pulled him from the water and began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Mercedes was found minutes later in three feet of water, after rescue squads arrived.

Efforts to revive the children continued as they were taken to Commonwealth Doctors Hospital, but Mercedes was pronounced dead at the hospital at 7:21 p.m. and Gregory 24 minutes later.

Gregory, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Ron Liveris, lived at 9106 Octavia Ct.; Melinda, daughter of Don and Diane Lopes, lived at 7608 Cervantes La.

Police theorized that the children had tried to walk on the ice. A neighbor, Melinda Mosler, 14, who said she often babysat for both the Liveris and Lopes families, said she believed it was the first time the children had gone to the lake. "I don't think they knew what ice was," she said.

Mercedes was a "bright, pretty girl with red hair," Mosler recalled, and Gregory, who had blond curls, "was a very nice boy." The two often played together, said another neighbor, Donna Lipresti.

Lipresti noted that "we live in a neighborhood with a lot of children," and said, "I never looked at the lake as a bad thing before, but now it doesn't appear to be a plus . . . "