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Dive teams busy as early-season tragedy strikes Connecticut waterways

Two people people died in separate drowning incidents over the warm weekend.

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. — An early dose of summer brought with it some early tragedy. Two people lost their lives on Connecticut waters this weekend.

From the murky ponds to the riptides at sea, everybody of water has its own danger. On the Connecticut River, for example, it’s the deceptive undercurrent that moves faster than what you see on the top of the water.

“We had three incidents unfortunately in our area here,” said Chief Jim Trzaski of Middletown's South Fire District.

Will Healey, the spokesperson for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), called the incidents over the weekend “heartbreaking.”

RELATED: Man dies after kayak capsizes in Guilford

It started Saturday at Uncas Pond in Lyme. A 16-year-old boy was swimming with friends when he lost his life.

“We don’t want to see this happen again,” said Healey.

But then it did on Sunday at Quonnipaug Lake in Guilford. A man in a kayak died trying to recover a lost paddle.

“Oftentimes people underestimate the power of the water and how fast the coldness is going to sap the energy away from their body,” Trzaski explained.

On Sunday, there was a near tragedy in Portland. However, in that incident, three Good Samaritans rescued a swimmer in distress at Great Hill Pond.

The eight-member South Fire District Dive Team responded to all three incidents. They said the number one thing anyone can do to keep safe on the water is to wear a personal flotation device or a life jacket.

“When you are under there though, it’s a weird feeling,” Cody Soule, part of the dive team, explained.

The team suits up, with a harness and a tether, weights to keep the diver on the bottom and breathing tanks. Each diver descends to the depths for about 20 minutes. It’s pitch black.

“Oftentimes they’ll just come right up onto the victim unannounced,” explained Chief Trzaski.

“You do a full arm sweep and you are trying to cover as much ground in a sweep as you can,” said Soule.

RELATED: 16-year-old boy has died after water incident in Lyme

So far this year, five people have drowned in Connecticut. DEEP is advising residents to swim only in designated swimming areas, ideally in the eight spots where there are lifeguards.

“The script can flip in a minute…these tragedies can happen,” said Healey.

And if you do happen to witness someone go below the water, the dive team told me the most important thing is don’t move. Call 911 from where you are standing. The divers need to know where the victim went under the water to triangulate a position to begin their search.

Matt Caron is a reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at mcaron@fox61.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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