By Eric Francis
STOCKBRIDGE – A 10-year-old boy from Hartford, Connecticut drowned on the White River Thursday afternoon while tubing with two of his cousins, despite frantic efforts by his uncle to save him.
The accident occurred shortly before 2 p.m. less than a mile from where the small group had put in an area where there were some partially submerged trees in a bend in the river just above the Twin Bridges, near the Gaysville post office.
“Apparently he came around the corner and went into a snag and it sucked him under,” Bethel Fire Chief David Aldrighetti explained. “His uncle tried to get him out but then his uncle got caught in it and ended up beside the river. He just said he saw him floating away, that was all.”
The White River Swift Water Rescue Team, which consists of members of the Barnard, Bethel, and Stockbridge volunteer fire departments entered the river where the boy was last seen and were headed out on boogie boards searching for him.
“We were on the scene within 10 minutes of the call and we put seven or eight guys in the water immediately,” Chief Adrighetti recalled.
Over a half hour later, the missing boy was spotted downstream on the water behind the White River National Fish Hatchery by one of a half dozen state troopers who were driving up and down the riverbanks looking for him.
Acting on the sighting from the trooper, who was on the opposite bank from the hatchery, which is operated by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the swift water team recovered the boy and brought him to the riverbank where CPR efforts were immediately commenced.
“It’s hard to say with drowning cases because with cold water you stand a better chance,” Chief Aldrighetti said of the medical efforts that were undertake despite the amount of time the boy had been submerged.
A South Royalton Rescue ambulance crew continued the CPR efforts all the way to the hospital in New Hampshire and a paramedic from the Hartford Fire Department intercepted the ambulance enroute and climbed aboard to help with the resuscitation effort; however, the boy was pronounced dead shortly after his arrival at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center.
The New Hampshire Medical Examiner’s Office announced mid-morning on Friday that the cause of death had been ruled accidental drowning.
Vermont State Police said the boy was not wearing a life jacket at the time of the mishap and Chief Aldrighetti said the boy’s uncle also suffered some injuries.
“He actually went into the snag to try and save his nephew and he hurt his leg and his feet and he was pretty bruised up,” Aldrighetti said.
Firefighters at the scene said the uncle had recently purchased a vacation home in Barnard and had just moved to the area.
During the mishap the boy’s two young cousins had made it to an island in the river where firefighters found them unharmed.
Although there have been accidents and close calls in sections of the White River further to the south, the Stockbridge stretch of the White is not considered particularly dangerous.
“I can’t even remember the last drowning on it,” Chief Aldrighetti said, “It has been years and years since we’ve had one. We got the grant to put together the swift water rescue team four years ago and this is actually the first time we’ve really been called on. We’ve responded a couple of other times but nothing had actually happened, which was good.”
The deceased boy’s name was not immediately released.