FAIRFIELD, Conn. – A Bridgeport family lost a daughter Tuesday when a 10-year-old girl died in Fairfield’s Lake Mohegan. Fairfield Police now hope they can at least learn from the tragedy.
“Now what we have to do is, we really have to look at what we have to do to prevent this from happening again,” Fairfield Police Chief Gary MacNamara said Wednesday.
Catherine Trujillo was swimming in Lake Mohegan Tuesday evening when she ventured into a deep area and went under. After a 45-minute search, police were able to pull her out, but she was later pronounced dead at Bridgeport Hospital.
“We can’t lose sight of the fact that a little 10-year-old girl lost her life yesterday,” MacNamara said. “We have to support the family in this tragedy. And we have to support all of our emergency personnel who put themselves at risk to try to save her.”
One problem specific to Lake Mohegan is drastic changes in depth. Many areas along the shore have underwater shelves where the lake bottom can drop as much as 20 feet instantly. At its deepest the lake is about 60 feet deep.
“That will lead to panic real quick,” MacNamara said. “To go from very shallow to so deep, very quickly.”
Tides and currents can also be dangerous for swimmers at Fairfield's beaches. Fairfield Police have received numerous reports of swimmers getting caught in currents this summer. Even freshwater swimming areas can have powerful currents under the surface.
Trujillo’s death was the second drowning in the past 12 months at Lake Mohegan. Frank Mazzabufi, a 39-year-old Shelton man, was fishing along the lake’s shore last August when he fell in another area with a sudden drop in depth. Lifeguards and Fairfield Police teams rushed to find him, but were not able to save him.
And this past May, a Bridgeport woman survived a close call in the Cascades section of the park, near where Tuesday’s accident took place. That woman was pulled ashore by family members, and survived.
MacNamara said his department will work with the Parks and Recreation Department and the Conservation Department, which manages the town’s open spaces, to see what the town can better do to prevent accidents such as this. One possibility is to add more signage to the areas to make the dangers of swimming in the area clearer.
Police also plan to reach out to local groups, such as the Stew Leonard III Water Safety Foundation, to develop advice for swimmers in Fairfield. The Fairfield Police Marine Unit, stationed at the shore, is also willing to offer recommendations for safety equipment and other preventative measures.
In the meantime, police remind residents to stay in the town’s designated swimming areas: the five town-run shoreline beaches, and the southern area of Lake Mohegan. They also suggest that hikers and other residents who see swimmers in non-approved areas offer warnings and contact the police.
“We’ll always send an officer, and always have sent officers to reports of people swimming in undesignated areas,” said Deputy Chief Chris Lyddy. “Because we understand the dangers.”