Water safety

No swimming should be allowed in parks without lifeguard on duty

The drowning this week of a 9-year-old boy at Squantz Pond State Park in nearby New Fairfield signals the need for changes at all parks -- including Candlewood Lake and Lake Waramaug -- where swimming is offered.

There had not been a drowning at Squantz Pond since 2007, which may have been the result of safety improvements implemented by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

After three people drowned in the pond in 2007, the DEP closed some parts of the water to swimming, changed the contour of the beach and added a dock for rescue vehicles. The following year marked the first time since 2003 that no one had drowned in the pond.

This summer at Squantz Pond nearly passed without a death as well, until the boy, who was from the Bronx, was pulled from the water Monday and died later that day at Danbury Hospital.

The boy's death is a tragedy, and it follows closely on the heels of two other local drownings.

In July, a boy was pulled from the water at Lynn Deming Park at Candlewood Lake in New Milford and died a few days later. Earlier this month, another boy drowned in the Housatonic River during a family outing in Gaylordsville.

After accidents like these, it's natural to wonder what, if anything, might have been done to prevent them.

New Fairfield First Selectman John Hodge has a good idea, with his suggestion of a new policy for all state parks, which would prohibit swimming when there is no lifeguard on duty. The suggestion should be considered for town-owned parks as well in the Greater New Milford area.

There were no lifeguards Monday at Squantz Pond. A DEP spokesman said that a late Labor Day meant many of the college students who work as lifeguards in Connecticut state parks were back at school before the holiday brings an unofficial end to summer. The parks, he said, might have lifeguards available for the Labor Day weekend.

It is impossible to say whether Monday's tragedy at Squantz Pond would have been prevented had lifeguards been on duty. Swimming seems so easy and safe to many people, yet people drown in calm ponds and coastal currents.

There are no guarantees of safety. But there should always be a lifeguard on duty when people are swimming in a public place.