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Swimmer's Death Raises Safety Concerns At Millers Pond

Seven people have drowned at the state park in Durham since 2000, according to officials.

 

A Windsor man who died this week after being pulled from in nearby Durham is the seventh swimmer to drown at the state park since 2000, according to state officials. 

And while remains under investigation, local and state officials say the tragedy will likely not result in any changes at the pond.

"It's just tragic what happened the other day and it saddens us all," said Dennis Schain of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). "It is not a designated swimming area, so we do not staff it with lifeguards."

Schain said signs entering the park and near the pond warn visitors that swimming is an "at your own risk" activity.

"We just don't have the resources to have lifeguards everywhere and no matter what precautions you take, warnings, even with lifeguards it still really comes down to people's indivual behavior and good judgment," Schain said. "People should know their swimming abilities and be careful not to get more engaged in the water than they're capable of handling."

Last July, a West Haven man  at the park. Drownings are not only tragic for families and friends but can also be dangerous and traumatic for emergency responders, said Durham First Selectman Laura Francis.

"Every time we send crews up there I worry about their safety as well," Francis said.

While the town has worked with neighboring Haddam to increase traffic enforcement in the area of the park, Francis said there is little the town can do to prevent drownings.

"We do not own it. It's not our responsibility and we do not have the resources to staff it, nor do we have the authority to staff it," she said. "That doesn't mean that I'm not concerned. Of course I'm concerned and it saddens me every year that a tragedy occurs."

Both Francis and Schain said preventing visitors from swimming in the pond was difficult, due to the popularity of the park. "To eliminate the problem we'd have to close it and that would be sad because there are people that enjoy that park and abide by the rules," Francis said.

Shain said the DEEP has worked closely with the YMCA and other groups to teach swimming and to promote water safety "to address the root of the problem."

"It's still personal decision, judgment, common sense, resisting peer pressure," he said.

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