Tragedy struck in Milford this past weekend when Timothy Cook, 48, of Stratford, died after jumping off the pier at Walnut Beach into shallow waters. Some might think his death could have been avoided. It was early enough in the evening to determine the tide and the water’s depth, and signs posted in the area warn against jumping from the pier into the water.
A lifeguard station sits at the foot of the pier where several lifeguards are on regular duty seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and during those hours, they regularly stop people from jumping off the pier.
It is fairly common knowledge that jumping is discouraged for safety reasons. But is that enough? People are known to use the pier as a launch into the water below, especially after the lifeguards have gone home for the day.
This isn’t the first time tragedy has struck in Milford’s waters. Last 4th of July, a Hamden resident, Rocco Daddio Jr., drowned while walking the sandbar from Silver Sands Beach to Charles Island. Both he and a nine-year old boy were swept off the slippery, rocky stretch of land connecting Silver Sands Beach to Charles Island.
The strong, fast-moving currents were enough to take Daddio’s life. Following last year’s tragedy, many residents familiar with the tides surrounding the sandbar commented on the strength of the currents off Charles Island. The strong undertow has caught many individuals and families off guard and calls for shutting down the sandbar were made.
Responding to that tragedy quickly, state and local officials met at Milford City Hall to review the history and the data related to the sandbar and the waters surrounding it and Charles Island. The meeting, called by State Sen. Gayle Slossberg, included Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) officials, local first responders and others.
Several ideas were raised and state leaders concluded their discussions by making several suggestions that were immediately implemented. Park rangers began communicating with boaters via radio, the idea being that Milford’s boaters and fishermen would likely be the first on any scene near Charles Island.
DEEP officials also suggested redoing signs at the beach to let people know about the dangers associated with the sandbar. They also spent several weeks directing walkers off the sandbar during dangerous high-tide periods.
All these measures were taken in the hope of further educating the public to the dangers of what many people assume to be simple recreational activities.
Similarly, city officials probably need to gather and talk about what happened at the Bert Munroe Pier at Walnut Beach. It appears the city’s Park, Beach and Recreation Department has done what should be done to warn people and discourage them from jumping: Posting notices and manning the lifeguard booths.
But like the sandbar situation, perhaps officials will decide to push the message and put up additional signs: Increase the warning signs in the hopes of further discouraging people from making an unwise decision.