It looks like three men, who couldn’t swim, went for a canoe ride without PFD’s. Unfortunately one man lost his life.
GOSHEN - A 49-year-old Westfield man drowned in Upper Highland Lake at the DAR State Forest in Goshen on Saturday night.
The Northwestern district attorney's office identified the victim Sunday night as Orlando Burgos of 40 Franklin St.
Massachusetts State Trooper Reid Bagley said members of the Northfield Dive Rescue Team recovered Burgos' body from the murky water about 11 p.m.
Joe Roberts, a member of the Select Board who lives near the lake, said he went out about 9 p.m. Saturday to find out what was happening. "They had three search boats on the water, a helicopter circling the lake, and the big spotlights trained on the water," he said.
Roberts said Police Chief Jeffrey Hewes told him Burgos had been camping with family members.
According to witnesses interviewed on Sunday, three men launched a canoe just before dusk. At some point the canoe capsized, leaving the three men in the water. One man was able to swim to shore, and another was pulled to safety by another boater.
"I noticed some loud noises coming from the water, but I didn't think much of it," said Shawn Roy 36, of Peru. "The next thing I know, the canoe is capsized and people are yelling for help."
Roy's fiancee, Crystal Beasley of Peru, said people on the beach who knew the men in the canoe at first did not realize that they needed help.
"I think the woman on the shore was the man's wife," Beasley said. "They thought he was joking around. But after the third call for help, they realized he was not joking."
She said no one in the canoe was wearing a life jacket. Burgos was wearing jeans and T-shirt, Beasley said.
Bystanders called 911 and Roy said he drove to a nearby ranger station for help.
"When I came back down from the ranger station, I dove in to try and help. Someone gave me a life preserver and we went out searching," said Roy, who spent two or three hours helping to search for Burgos' body.
"The water was so deep and murky that I could only go by feel," he said.
Highland Ambulance personnel, headquartered in the Goshen firehouse, were the first to arrive. Goshen firefighters and police also were called in along with the Northfield Dive Rescue Team and a helicopter from the Massachusetts State Police Air Wing.
Mike Winakor of Salem, Conn., was at the forest camping with his two boys, Colby, 11, and Spencer, 14, when he saw the helicopter.
"It was surreal. We were hanging out at the campsite when a helicopter started circling, I realized he was gridding over the water, so I went down to the beach and spoke with a trooper to see what was going on." Winakor, who is a parole officer in Connecticut, said Sunday.
April McLean and Michael Delaney, both of Hartford, Conn., were camping with Winakor and said they were anxious about all of the commotion.
"It was scary. We wanted to know what was going on - if someone had been hurt or if they were looking for someone who had done something bad," McLean said Sunday. "Now that we all know what happened, it is very quiet around here today, It's a little eerie," she said.
Roy, who a day later was still clearly shaken from the ordeal, said he had been coming to the DAR for years and had never experienced anything like this.
"It was very sad. (The victim's) wife was a wreck. She was sitting on the beach and bawling," Roy said. "I just feel like I could have done more. It is such a tragedy. My condolences go out to the family."
Burgos' death appears to be accidental, according to the DA's office.