The family of a Groton man who drowned off Chatham last year now wants the Cape Cod town to pay $10 million in damages, asserting that the community failed to adequately warn about the dangers of swimming in an area known as The Point.
Thomas McDonald, his wife, Theresa, and their children, Connor and Kinley, were at a part of Lighthouse Beach known as The Point when he noticed that his daughter had been pulled into the water by a swift current. McDonald rushed in to save the child, but was unable to save himself.
Kinley McDonald was rescued with the help of an off-duty lifeguard.
“What we’ve uncovered so far is that the water looks very calm and looks relatively shallow,’’ McDonald family attorney James A. Swartz of Boston said today. “But there is a very strong current or rip tide that will trap someone and pull them out to sea.’’
Swartz said Kinley McDonald is haunted by her father’s death. “She struggles, to be honest,’’ he said. “She has a very difficult time. This was a very, very close knit family… she was not only part of the whole tragedy, but witnessed it first hand. So she’s had a rough time.’’
In the letter sent to the town and in an interview, Swartz said the town failed to provide enough warning to swimmers about the dangers and that they failed to act quickly enough to rescue McDonald or provide him with life-saving medical care.
Swartz also noted that two other people drowned at The Point in the years before McDonald’s death and that since 2001; there have been 321 rescues in and near Lighthouse Beach. The town closed The Point to swimming this season, and Swartz said they should have done that before 2008.
In a separate interview, the chair of the Chatham Board of Selectmen called McDonald’s death a “tragedy’’ and said the town had clearly posted signs warning swimmers that the area was dangerous and that they would be swimming at their own risk once they got into the water.
Ronald J. Bergstrom also said that after McDonald’s death town officials developed a time line showing when emergency help was summoned and how long it took for the rescue to be completed.
“We are confident that we did what we could at the time,’’ Bergstrom said. “It was simply not possible to save Mr. McDonald. We weren’t able to get to him fast enough to save him, that’s the information I was given.’’
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