To the Editor:

I would like to respond to Susan Tuz's story in the Wednesday edition of your sister paper, The News-Times, titled "New Milford fire chief defends emergency response to drowning," with regard to the drowning death of Ursula Lerse in Candlewood Lake off Millstone Ridge in New Milford on June 26.

I had originally written a letter to the editor the day after Mrs. Lerse died, and I have incorporated that in this letter.

For the last couple of years, I have been the waterfront supervisor at Sherman Beach and have trained lifeguards about how to react in this exact situation. I have also grown up at Millstone for all of my adult life.

No one expects this situation to occur in his or her own backyard. There were capable lifeguards and military trained personnel searching for approximately 20 minutes before any emergency response personnel entered the water, and I believe that is why Ms. Kuskey is so frustrated (along with the majority of the community).

I certainly do not expect first responders to have the water training that a number of us at the beach had. However, it was very obvious that someone had to be searching.

It was extremely discouraging to see the emergency personnel just standing there watching us. When Corey Thompson and Mark Lacey found Mrs. Lerse, Ryan Delaney of the Water Witch Hose Co. No. 2 Fire Department did enter the water and assist.

Everyone did the best that they could in a terrible situation, and Corey and Mark deserve credit for sticking with the search after officials arrived and aiding in bringing her to shore. Neither of them were recognized in previous reportings of this accident.

No one could have saved Mrs. Lerse; she was under the water for too long before we found her. But as taxpayers, I suppose we expect to have responders to a drowning be able to save swimmers.

The community at Millstone Ridge in New Milford is unlike any I've ever seen, and all the individuals who helped search for Ursula that day should be proud of themselves for their tremendous effort and display of calm.

I would like to recognize the wonderful Millstone Ridge community for the amazing spirit and determination they displayed during the search and attempted rescue of Mrs. Lerse.

Within seconds of hearing distress, the entire community rallied to help however they could.

Millstone is an extremely unique neighborhood where everyone is always looking out for one another. The individuals there should all be proud of themselves, both for the tremendous effort and their display of calm and composure.

Candlewood Lake is a better place because of the people at Millstone Ridge.

Rest in peace, Ursula Lerse.

Jeanne Donohue

New Milford