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Investigation continues into Spec Pond drowning

Date: 7/19/2010

July 19, 2010.

By Chris Maza

Reminder Assistant Editor

WILBRAHAM -- Questions still remain in the case of the death at Spec Pond, including the exact circumstances that caused the victim to drown and who is liable for his death.

Carlos S. Torres, 22, of 774 State St. in Springfield, disappeared under the water and did not resurface while visiting the beach on July 8.

Wilbraham Police were the first to respond to a 911 call and with the help of lifeguards and others on the beach, formed a line search until Officer Christian Letendre located Torres under 10 to 12 feet of water.

"Originally, the call came in as a young child that had disappeared," Wilbraham Police Capt. Raymond Kallaugher said. "Once we got to the scene and started our search we realized it was someone older."

Torres was brought to shore where EMS crews attempted to resuscitate him before bringing him to Baystate Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

Wilbraham Police as well as The Massachusetts State Police CPAC unit are continuing to investigate the incident.

At the time of the incident, Torres was swimming under the supervision of lifeguards employed by the Parks and Recreation Department.

Police received the call stating Torres was missing in the water at approximately 7:47 p.m. According to the Wilbraham Parks and Recreation Web site, the park is open until 8 p.m. Signage at the park indicates the park closes at dusk.

"There were life guards on duty. They were actually in the process of closing." Kallaugher said. "Right before they were going to go off duty they made the announcement that once they were gone swimmers would do so at their own risk."

The drowning is a rarity for the park.

"Not as long as I've been here and I've been here for about 20 years," Kallaugher said. "We've had incidents at the Chicopee River or at Red Bridge [State Park], but never at Spec Pond that I can think of."

It is not yet known whether drugs or alcohol were a factor in the accident.

"The medical examiner's determination is that it was an accidental drowning," Kallaugher said. "We are still waiting for the toxicology reports."

It did not appear, according to Kallaugher, that Torres had suffered any significant injury that would have contributed to the drowning.

"He just disappeared," Kallaugher said. "This is just speculation on my part, but he might have cramped up. That happens sometimes. You start to cramp up, then you panic and then you just go under."

Parks and Recreation Department Director Bryan Litz told Reminder Publications that he would not comment on anything involving the incident, citing an ongoing police investigation.

He did say that part of the renovation plans for Spec Pond may include improved safety features, but said that nothing has been planned as of now. The Parks and Recreation Dept. is currently awaiting the decision on a grant applied for, which could inject up to $500,000 in funds into the proposed project

"It's part of out goal. Right now we do have a beach renovation planned, but it depends on how much money we end up with," Litz said. "A lot depends on if we get the grant and how much we get. Once we know, then we can start planning specifics."

The beach is currently open following its regular schedule.