AMESBURY – The 16-year-old boy pulled from the waters of Lake Gardner by first responders Sunday afternoon died around midnight, in spite of efforts by paramedics and hospital personnel to save him, according to city officials.
The city announced it would not identify the victim but said he was 16 and was not a Massachusetts resident.
Police and firefighters responded to a 911 call at 3:51 p.m. on Sunday, reporting that a minor was in the water and drowning. By 4:16 p.m. the boy was recovered from the water without a pulse.
Amesbury police Officer Ronald Guilmette was the first responder to enter the water, along with Amesbury firefighters Justin Petrillo, Sean Kane and T.J. Poussard. Other officers remained on the beach to gather witness statements.
Guilmette found the boy and brought him to shore where Amesbury paramedics immediately began CPR and transported him to Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport. Paramedics worked with emergency room staff and were able to establish a pulse. At that time, the boy was taken by MedFlight to a Boston-area hospital, according to a statement released by Mayor Kassandra Gove's office Monday afternoon.
Early Monday morning, Amesbury police received word from the state medical examiner that the boy had died.
"It’s tragic to have something like this happen and my thoughts are with the family and friends of the young man," Gove said in a statement. She said a summertime water rescue has not happened at Lake Gardner Beach in decades – although first responders are trained for them.
"I want to thank our police and fire departments for everything they did to try and save the boy. This is not the outcome we wanted, but they deserve a lot of credit for going above and beyond in the call of duty. Officer Ronnie Guilmette put his own life in danger to search for the boy and didn't think twice about it. Thank you to both teams for your efforts," Gove said in the statement.
After the accident, the gates at Lake Gardner were closed while the investigation continued. By Monday morning, someone had left a flower bouquet on the front gate fence.
Gove's communication director, Caitlin Thayer, said the beach will remain closed until Friday.
"City leadership is taking a few days to evaluate the beach area and ensure that we’re doing everything we can to keep people safe. This week the Department of Public Works is clearing away some brush that hinders line of sight in one area, and we are working on signage to ensure that the rules and messaging is clear and consistent,'"Thayer said in a separate statement.
Since 2019 there have been no lifeguards at Lake Gardner Beach, a fact posted on the city's website which states that swimmers enter the water at their own risk.
"It’s been getting harder and harder to hire lifeguards, you see that throughout the region and the state," Amesbury Recreation Director Kathy Crowley said. "2019 was the last year we had lifeguards, and even then we weren’t able to cover all shifts. We even offered to pay for half of their lifeguard certification and still couldn’t find enough people."