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Man dies during swim in Maine

By Matt Collette

Globe Correspondent / September 1, 2008

A 46-year-old Groton man drowned yesterday at Lighthouse Beach in Chatham after attempting to rescue his 10-year-old daughter, who was swept into the ocean by strong currents, while a 68-year-old Lowell man died during a swim in Sebago Lake in Maine.

The two deaths came on a busy holiday weekend day that also saw several ocean rescues and the Coast Guard responding to reports that a man had slipped off a raft at Winthrop Beach. As of last night, the Winthrop search had been suspended, with Coast Guard officials saying an unmanned raft had probably blown into the ocean from shore.
Thomas McDonald, 46, of Groton, was pronounced dead at Cape Cod Hospital yesterday afternoon. He lost consciousness swimming after his daughter, who had been overcome by waves at the beach and swept out to sea, Chatham officials said. The girl and two women who swam out to assist in the rescue were pulled from the water by Chatham Harbormaster patrol boats.
"It's just tragic, he was doing a valiant thing trying to go after his daughter who was caught in the current," said Chatham harbormaster Stuart Smith. "I don't know the man but he was certainly one brave individual. "
Smith praised the responders for their quick action and called Tanya O'Donnell, a 17-year-old Harwich lifeguard who swam 100 yards to the girl and stayed with her until patrol boats arrived, a hero. "Quite frankly, without her intervention, we might have lost the girl," Smith said.
Police in Frye Island, Maine, were called at 10:50 a.m. yesterday when William Lanier, 68, was found nonresponsive in Sebago Lake, said Rod Beaulieu, chief of the Frye Island Police Department. Lanier was visiting relatives when he took a 10-mile walk around the island and then went for an unaccompanied swim in the lake, Beaulieu said.
The chief said an autopsy is pending, but had no other details.
The drowning in Chatham occurred just after 1 p.m. when a Chatham patrol boat, returning from a report that kayakers were in distress, pulled McDonald, who was unconscious, from the water. McDonald and his daughter were transported to Cape Cod Hospital and his daughter was later released, a hospital spokesman said.
O'Donnell was at the Chatham beach with a friend for the day. It was her first day off all summer, and her first rescue as well. Before yesterday, she said, she spent the summer treating jellyfish stings and doling out bandages. She was standing on the sandbar when she heard people shouting about the father and daughter in trouble. Without pausing to think, she started swimming to help.
"We're not supposed to do that, if we don't have a rescue tube," O'Donnell said. "But I just went in."
She quickly got to the girl and kept her afloat as they waited for help. She felt helpless as McDonald struggled for help. "Honestly, it was so hard for me. . . He was reaching for me, but I knew I couldn't go to him because then there would be three victims."
Smith said conditions in the water at the popular beach were rough yesterday. "It was the waves that gave people trouble," he said.
Last Thursday, four people were rescued by the Coast Guard in Cape Cod Bay near Sandy Neck Beach in Barnstable after a swimmer jumped from a boat and was overcome by the current. When the other three jumped from the boat, they also were swept away by the current.
In Winthrop yesterday, rescuers spent the afternoon looking for a man who reportedly fell from an inflatable raft into the ocean near Winthrop Beach. About 1 p.m., the Winthrop Fire Department received two tips that a man had fallen from a yellow inflatable raft into the water. Fire officials notified the Coast Guard, which used boats, divers, and a search helicopter to look for the man in the 66-degree water.
At 6 p.m., the Coast Guard suspended its search, saying it was likely the raft had blown into the water from the beach.
"At this point, it seems very likely it was a false alarm," said Petty Officer Luke Pinneo, based at the Coast Guard First District Headquarters in Boston.

http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2008/09/01/father_drowns_in_chatham_rescue_attempt/
 
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