WILMINGTON, MA — At Monday night’s Selectmen’s meeting, Wilmington Town Manager Jeff Hull read a letter from Wilmington Police Chief Michael Begonis and Wilmington Fire Chief Joseph McMahon into the record.
The letter recognized the brave actions of public safety personnel and residents during the drowning tragedy that occurred Silver Lake last month. It reads:
On Wednesday, August 29th at about 5:30pm, Wilmington Public Safety was notified via 911 of a possible drowning occurring at Silver Lake. Police and Fire personnel responded to the lake and an immediate command location was created by Deputy Fire Chief William Cavanaugh as he coordinated the rescue efforts. Upon responded, we observed several civilian and public safety rescuers in the water attempting to locate the individual who was missing. The Fire Rescue boat was launched and was joined by a civilian craft and a few kayakers who were assisting the first responders. It should be noted the beach was occupied by many citizens seeking relief from the August heat. As first responded staged rescue efforts, they called in support from Billerica, North Reading, Tewksbury, and the Massachusetts State Police. While several rescuers attempted to locate the young man, Deputy Police Chief Robert Richter took command of the scene, clearing citizens from the beach and parking area for additional responders while also coordinating investigator’s efforts to interview witnesses and the victim’s family and friends for information.
Deputy Cavanaugh remained focused on the rescue efforts accounting for responders who were searching in the water and scheduling relief and rest periods for rescuers Once the victim was located, persistent efforts were made until responders were able to bring him to the surface and provide CPR and emergency medical care.
The tragic loss of a human life always weights heavy on each of us but we clearly saw its impact within the determined, frustrated and then solemn faces of the responders who placed their lives in jeopardy. These responders endured limited visibility, frigid waters, near exhaustion toward an uncertain outcome. I am often reserved in offering ceremonial recognition of someone who has performed their job well as I would rather a pat on the back or a simple ‘thank you’ as sufficient recognition. However, this call was much different and everyone who was involved brought their best effort and additionally several responders placed their own lives in jeopardy to save a young man who they had never met.
The men and women of Wilmington’s Public Safety Dispatch, Police and Fire Departments and citizens of Wilmington gave their best on this day and they should be commended for their professionalism and dedication to the preservation of human life. I am extremely proud of each of them.
We respectfully submit to you and the Board of Selectmen for their offer of commendation and recognition the following list of individuals:
- Citizen responders: Annamae Coffin (first to swim to the victim’s last seen location), Rosalie McConologue, James Ward, Dylan Brugger, Jake Warford, Jodi McKenzie-Campbell, David Ward.
- Responders first in the water: FF Nicholas Newhall, Officer Julio Quiles, Fire Lt. Rob Varey, Sgt. David Sugrue
- Rescue boat responders: FF Thomas Ceres and FF Ryan Quigley
- Second Wave responders: FF Eric Siegel, FF Eric Robbins, FF Michael Jenette, FF Greg Murphy, FF Ryan Quigley
- Police Officer Michael Johnson who entered the water to recover a distraught family member.
- Third Wave responders: FF Kyle Skinner, FF Jack Mulrenan, FF Edward Sousa
- North Reading rescue boat: Fire Lt. Nicholas LeColst, FF Corey Harris
- All the men and women of the shift and responding off duty who supported our living saving efforts
- Public Safety Dispatchers: Supervisory Corey Swift, Meredith Welch and Brian Healy
We recognize the men and women listed above may not be exhaustive in representing the efforts of all individuals who assisted on August 29th and offer our sincere regrets if anyone has been omitted unintentionally.
Chief Michael R. Begonis and Chief Joseph McMahon
Not The Right Moment? Kevin MacDonald Takes Opportunity To Criticize Town After Tragedy
“In regards to Silver Lake and the tragedy there, I just want to offer my deepest sympathy of the family. It’s a very sad situation. I actually lost two cousins to drownings and they were very young. I know what this family is going through,” said resident Kevin MacDonald during ‘Public Comments.’ MacDonald has routinely criticized the Selectmen and Town Manager at public meetings over the past decade.
“Having said that, I’m really not happy with the policy that the town has in place for the lake, especially when you charge people money to come to the lake. I don’t feel comfortable with kids guarding other people’s lives,” continued MacDonald. “I don’t think any one of you up there would really put all your faith in a high school kid to protect the life of your children. I don’t think they’re experienced enough in CPR. I highly doubt they’re all EMTs. I’d be willing to bet money none of them are paramedics. Knowing the Fire Department has a boat and knowing they’re skilled in all those areas of certification, for the life of me, I don’t know why we don’t have a professional adult with the experience, training, skills and certifications down at that lake, guarding the safety of the people.”
“It’s beyond me that you can’t have some type of vision. Why are we having kids with that great of responsibility and now we have another tragedy? Are you going to do something about? Whether it’s taking [a firefighter] off the first shift and putting him down there, and maybe leave the third shift when move of them sleep, a man short. And then maybe have a slush fund…,” added MacDonald.
At that point, Selectman Chair Kevin Caira told MacDonald his five minutes were up. Before sharing his opinion on the Silver Lake tragedy, MacDonald chose to offer several other criticisms on different topics.
“Is five minutes too much time to talk about such an important issue, a life lost?,” shot back MacDonald.
When Selectman Ed Loud then clarified with MacDonald that there were no lifeguards on duty the day of the drowning, MacDonald appeared to grow agitated.
“Isn’t that retarded?,” MacDonald said in a raised voice. “Don’t you think that’s retarded to not have lifeguards on duty when the beach is open?
Loud then pointed out there was a “swim at your own risk” sign and the young man who passed away was beyond the town beach’s swimming area.
Are you serious?,” responded MacDonald. “That’s so ridiculous. I can’t believe you even said that.”
“I can’t believe you’re saying what you’re saying,” responded Loud.
“We have lifeguards who are certified,” further clarified Selectman Chair Kevin Caira, as MacDonald tried to talk over him. “Lifeguards were not on duty because the beach was closed as of August 11. We have great first responders and great citizens who made every attempt to save that young man’s life. This was a tragedy. Don’t tell us how we feel when it comes to a life lost.”
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