By Doug Ireland
---- — NEWTON — An 18-year-old Massachusetts man who drowned at the town beach Saturday was missing for about 15 to 20 minutes before he was pulled from the water, according to the N.H. State Police Marine Patrol.
Town officials remained tight-lipped yesterday as the Marine Patrol continued to investigate the death of Sheldon Jean-Laurent of Mattapan.
Jean-Laurent, accompanied by friends, was in about 7 feet of water when he suddenly disappeared, Newton police Chief Lawrence Streeter said. He said he could not comment further because the incident is still being investigated by the Marine Patrol.
Jean-Laurent had not been seen for 15 to 20 minutes before lifeguards and swimmers pulled him from the water, according to Marine Patrol Sgt. Crystal McLain. She said the investigation will take about a week to complete.
She said lifeguards and swimmers performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Jean-Laurent before he was rushed by ambulance to Merrimack Valley Hospital in Haverhill, then flown by medical helicopter to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. He died at about 11 p.m. Saturday.
McLain said she did not how far Jean-Laurent was from shore when he disappeared or why 15 to 20 minutes passed before he could be found.
She also did not know how many lifeguards were on duty at the beach, which is marked by ropes. A sign says, “Swim at own risk.” The beach remains open.
Newton officials, including Town Administrator Nancy Wrigley, would not comment on the drowning or the town’s lifeguard staff.
Wrigley said the town has contacted its insurance carrier and selectmen have ordered that no information on the incident be released.
“It’s under investigation,” Wrigley said. “We can’t comment at this time.”
Questions about the drowning have been referred to Selectmen Raymond Thayer, Robert Donovan and Charles Melvin Sr. They could not be reached yesterday.
Recreation Commission member Marilyn Landry said the commission also could not comment on the incident. Landry did say the town’s lifeguards must be certified and have CPR training.
“They are certified,” she said. “Any other questions will have to go to the Board of Selectmen.”
Fire Chief William Ingalls, a member of the Fire Department for 49 years, said it was the first death on that part of the pond since the 1970s.
Most of Country Pond is in Kingston, where a collision between two boats killed one person and injured five other people in May 2012.
Ingalls also declined to comment on the drowning because it’s being investigated by the state.
Jean-Laurent’s death was one of three drownings in the state over the holiday weekend, prompting the Marine Patrol to issue a warning about high water levels because of heavy rain.
Swimmers are urged to only use designated swimming areas where lifeguards are on duty. Anyone who uses a river or stream, including canoeists and kayakers, is encouraged to wear a life jacket.