Middle-schooler drowns during field trip to pond
A 13-year-old boy drowned Tuesday during an end-of-year school field trip to a pond at a state park in Maine, police and school officials said.
The boy, a seventh-grade student at Lewistown Middle School, was playing football with classmates in a buoyed swimming area of Range Pond State Park when he suddenly went beneath the murky water, Chief Deputy William Gagne of the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office told the Sun Journal.
Emergency workers were called to the frantic scene about 11:47 a.m., Gagne said. Firefighters found the boy in the water about 30 minutes later.
“While they were getting ready to launch [the first boat], some of the firefighters went into the water,” Gagne told the newspaper. “One had a wetsuit, one had a bathing suit; they just immediately started looking for the child underwater with goggles.”
The unidentified boy was found still inside the buoyed swim area and was taken to shore, where an ambulance crew tried to resuscitate him. He was later pronounced dead at Central Maine Medical Center, the Bangor Daily News reported.
“We grieve for this family,” Lewiston Superintendent Bill Webster said. “Words are insufficient to meet their needs and we’ll be reaching out to see how we can best support them. Clearly we didn’t meet the parent expectations on this trip and that is a real tragedy.”
The student was among 133 classmates who attended the field trip, which was scheduled to celebrate the end of the school year, Webster said. In addition to the park’s lifeguard, 11 chaperones were on the trip, supervising students while they frolicked onshore and in the water, he said.
“We will definitely read their report closely,” Webster said in reference to the sheriff’s office. “We need to reflect on our procedures and what transpired.”
The boy was apparently shorter than the depth of the water in the area where he drowned, which was not far from shore, Webster said. And he might not have even been able to swim, according to the Sun Journal, citing unnamed sources.
“Too many Lewiston students don’t know how to swim,” Webster told the newspaper.
A vigil will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Lewiston Middle School to honor a “life lost too soon,” Webster tweeted late Tuesday.
The parent of an eighth-grade student at the school who took a separate field trip Tuesday said she received an automated message about the incident.
“We heard the boy was playing football in the water, he fell back with the ball and never resurfaced,” Jennifer Belanger told the Sun Journal. “I literally sat in the car and cried for a half-hour. It’s so shocking, so tragic. There’s been so many losses here. It’s awful.”
The boy is the third Lewiston Middle School student to die in 18 months, most recently in November when a 13-year-old boy, Jayden Cho-Sargent, was fatally struck by a car as she walked to school, according to the newspaper.
In May 2017, 13-year-old Anie Graham died of a suicide at her home.
“Getting that phone call, oh my God, you put yourself in that position,” Belanger told the newspaper. “I can’t imagine.”