STURBRIDGE -- A 5-year-old boy died yesterday afternoon after he was found in a pond while attending a popular town summer camp, authorities said.
Forty campers ages 5 to 15 were frolicking at picturesque Cedar Pond when the boy was found motionless in 3 feet of water near a dock, Sturbridge police Detective Mar k G. Saloio said in a statement. Lifeguards were on duty at the time, he said.
The lifeguards administered CPR at the scene, but the boy, whose name was not released by police, was pronounced dead shortly afterward at Harrington Hospital, Saloio said. State and local police are investigating how the boy ended up in the water.
Town officials could not be reached yesterday.
Parents whose children have attended the Sturbridge Recreational Day Camp in the past were stunned to hear the tragic news.
"It's just shocking, because the summer programs have always been good," said Cathy Kreidemaker, 42, who had pulled up to the pond with her children in the evening, hours after the boy was pulled from the water.
Although the lake is small and lifeguards are on duty, it can be difficult to keep a watchful eye on everyone when there are dozens of young children running around, said Tammy Pascale, who lives by the pond.
Pascale, 39, said her 3-year old daughter, Marissa, was playing in a children's pool in their yard when the boy was found. The little girl watched as ambulances and police cruisers rushed to the scene.
"It only takes one second" to lose track of a young child before tragedy strikes, she said.
Distraught, Pascale immediately called her husband, who was at work.
"I was sick to my stomach all the way home," said Rick Pascale, 39.
The couple said they were surprised that the town allows such young children to attend the program, because some cannot swim. The Pascales said they often worry that their own little girl might wander through the trees blocking their home from the pond.
"I am always scared that she will go into the water," Tammy Pascale said. "I have taken her down there before, and she wants to be like all the other kids."
Vinnie English, 25, was playing with his daughter at a nearby school playground about an hour after he heard the news. English, a pipe fitter, said he moved out of Boston to get away from the bustling city and to raise his little girl in a peaceful suburban enclave. The news of the drowning will hit residents hard in this small town of nearly 8,000, he predicted.
"It's definitely going to shake the town up," English said. "They aren't used to things like that."