Bridgewater Man Drowns In Lake Amherst
By Eric Francis
PLYMOUTH — Preliminary autopsy results that were shared with close family members mid-week have not been able shed much more light as to why a well-liked groundskeeper at the Hawk Mountain Resort suddenly drowned Sunday morning while trying to repair an “aqua-trampoline” that was floating in Lake Amherst.
At least one witness on the shore called 911 after seeing 48-year-old Michael Bivins of Bridgewater Corners, a nearly 25-year veteran of the maintenance department at Hawk, begin thrashing in the relatively shallow water and then disappear under the surface.
Would-be rescuers at the scene and those Plymouth and Ludlow first responders who raced there in response to the 911 call were simply unable to spot Bivins due to the mud that had been stirred up from the bottom, which was only about six feet below the surface this time of year.
By the time a diver finally located and grabbed hold of him some 90 minutes after the initial call, there was little that could be done in terms of resuscitation and Bivins was pronounced dead mid-day when he arrived at Springfield Hospital after being transported there by a Ludlow Ambulance crew.
“At this point it looks like a straightforward drowning,” Bivins’ sister-in-law Julie Melendy of Bridgewater said Tuesday night after the state medical examiner’s office shared their preliminary results with the family. “It wasn’t the result of a bee sting or any of the things we thought it might have been at first,” Melendy said, adding that a few more days testing would be required to definitively rule out things like a heart attack but that her feeling was that Tropical Storm Irene may be as much to blame as any other factor for the tragedy.
Noting that many local streams, rivers and ponds were heavily silted during the Irene flooding with alterations occurring to their bottoms and shore lines as well as all kinds of debris being swept along, Melendy said there could have been any number of unusual hazards present in the lake that Bivins might have become entangled with when he swam a few yards in the shallow water in an apparent effort to retrieve his boat, which a witness said had begun to float away from him.
“It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, because he wasn’t that far away from the shore, but when the man saw him and went to try to save him, (he said Michael) was moving around a lot and it made it really impossible to see in the water so they couldn’t find him,” Melendy recalled, adding, “All the lakes around here when you swim in them get a little mucky, but this time I guess it was really bad.”
Melendy also said that while Bivins had worked on the large floating trampoline out in the lake in the past, Sunday is believed to have been the first time he’d done so alone.
“As a matter of fact, working on the lake was not one of his jobs. He didn’t really do water much (because) he wasn’t a very good swimmer,” Melendy said. “Michael has always been big and he said that he sank like a rock so he hated going in the water.”
The father to eight children, seven of whom he adopted over the course of his two marriages, Bivins was “just like a big teddy bear,” Melendy recalled, explaining how he had been moved years ago by the plight of a nephew with Down syndrome enough to make him his son and had entered “Tough Man” boxing competitions in order to raise the money need to cover the adoption process.
Although they were both married to different people at the time, one of his friends who helped with that adoption was his future wife, Carrie Bivins, who Michael just recently married.
“She and Michael have been friends since they moved here and years later they ended up together,” Melendy noted.
“He was divorced in 2006 and they got together in 2009 but they just got married this past August so it would have been a year in August,” Melendy said.
While Bivins was known around town for his love of sports and riding his motorcycle with his best friend, a co-worker at Hawk Mountain, he also had an artistic side that not as many people got to see, Melendy said.
“He was absolutely awesome at drawing. He was into the X-Men and superheroes and he had all that stuff and characters he invented himself that he drew in his books. He was a wonderful artist. We were all just up at his house looking at the things he drew.”
“Michael was the “go-to guy” at Hawk Mountain who pretty much did any maintenance that needed to be done and around town he was just a person who was always helping everybody out,” Melendy said. “He loved joking around and was just full of life and fun.”
A graveside service for Michael Bivins, 48, a devoted husband, father, and son, who died suddenly on July 22 in Plymouth, will be held Sunday, July 29 at 4 p.m. in the Baker Hill Cemetery in Bridgewater Center. Visiting hours will be held Saturday evening July 28th from 6-8 pm at the Cabot Funeral Home in Woodstock.
He leaves behind his loving wife, Carrie Bivins; his children Jazminn & Matt Ried, Demon Bivins, Charmain & Jerry Boisvert, Amber & James Dusik, Monica & Josh Gebard, Joseph & Liz Rogers, Denel Mcintire, Kaleb & Sarah Mcintire; and 13 grandchildren Ambrosia, Manny, Lyle, Gieovanna, Felicia, Justice, Logan, Desa, Amanda, Naveah, Miles, Durelle & Laiquen; his mother Effie Moore; father-in-law Clifford Geno; two brothers, Darnell & James; two sisters Leah and Anita; and bothers and sisters-in-law, John & Julie, Barb & Al.
He was predeceased by his father James Bivins; and his mother-in-law Marilyn Geno.
Memorial donations may be given to St. Jude’s Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN 38105.
Arrangements are under the direction of the Cabot Funeral Home in Woodstock, VT. Condolences may be offered at cabotfh.com.
This obituary first appeared in the July 26, 2012 print edition of the Vermont Standard.
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