Parents celebrating the holiday said they were concerned about the children’s safety after a 6-year-old nearly drown at a state park in Torrington this weekend.
Lifeguards were off-duty when the unidentified child almost drown at Burr Pond on Sunday night. It has many wondering if reducing their presence is a good idea.
On the Fourth of July, Burr Pond will close at sunset, so that means for the final few hours of the park, there will be no lifeguards on duty.
“The responsibility falls to parents. We're not everybody's babysitter,” Sgt. Tate Begley with the ENCON Police said.
Begley wasn’t mincing words on the heels of a 4-year-old boy from the Bronx drowning a week ago and a six-year-old girl, also from the Bronx, went under the water at Burr Pond on Sunday night.
“A lot of parents bring their kids to an area like this and see a lifeguard and they take that as my time off,” Begley said. “There's somebody else on duty.”
Begley said that may have been in the case on Sunday night, eyewitnesses said they pulled the girl out of the water and performed CPR. It would be several minutes before authorities could locate the girl's mother.
“We're still following up in the investigation, about whether charges will be filed on the mother because of the hard time we had locating her,” Begley said.
These preventable tragedies cast a spotlight on the recent decision to cut back lifeguard coverage at state parks. Signs are posted in the park noting the current staffing.
At Burr Pond, there were three lifeguards on duty with one in the water, one near it and one up at a post. They told Eyewitness News they work from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. There are several hours where it'll solely be up to the parents to keep an eye on the water.
“As a parent, I think that's wrong because this is where they need to have people watching,” mother Melissa Oyola, of Hartford, said.
Oyola was out enjoying the beautiful holiday with her family on Monday, but she said she constantly keeps an eye to the water.
“It changes,” Oyola said. “All of us have to be watching, even if they're not our kids.”
Her 17-year-old niece Yamilex Rivera, of Hartford, even had a close call. She said the depths of these waters can change almost instantly.
“I just took a step, and I went down,” Rivera said.
Police say those sudden changes could be very harmful to a younger swimmer, so the best piece of advice they have is to always be within arm’s reach of children when in the water.
Alcohol was also recently banned at Burr Pond, but that wasn't directly attributed to these tragedies.
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