Tragic Loss

WESTFIELD – A Pennsylvania woman drowned while trying to save her son and a friend in Lake Erie on Wednesday afternoon.

Christen L. Stefan, 37, who was vacationing in the area and staying in the Shore Haven area on Lake Erie in the town of Westfield, was at Shore Haven Beach with her 9-year-old son, an 8-year-old friend of the family and a 7-year-old friend of the family when the 9-year-old and 8-year-old went swimming in Lake Erie with an inner tube float.

Due to high winds and wave action, the two boys drifted out to deeper waters at 2:30 p.m. Christen swam out to assist the boys, but due to currents and wind the three drifted east to a cove in the rocky cliff shoreline. Upon reaching the cliffs, the three discarded the float to climb the cliff and get out of the water. The 8-year-old was able to climb out safely, but the 9-year-old fell back in the water. Stefan attempted to help her son who had fallen back in the water, but the resident of Bethel Park, Pa. vanished under the water.

“One child climbed up the bank to get help,” said Bradley Szymczak, Westfield Fire Department second assistant chief. “The other two were in the water still.”

The 9-year-old continued to drift east and was pushed out approximately 200 yards from the shoreline.

Matt Ward, a resident of Shore Haven, swam out to the 9-year-old and brought him back to shore.

Dennis Barmore, Chautauqua County Water Rescue Team captain said Stefan was then pulled from the water and taken to Westfield Memorial Hospital with her 9-year-old son, where she was pronounced dead in the emergency room.

The 9-year-old was being treated for hypothermia Wednesday evening while the 8-year-old was examined at the scene and released.

“This all happened around the corner from Barcelona Harbor,” said Mike O’Connell, Hartfield fire police officer. “Two went to the hospital. These (water rescuers) were good about getting them all out of the water.”

An investigation into the accident is continuing.

The sheriff’s office was assisted by the Westfield Police Department, the county Sheriff’s Dive Team and fire companies from Westfield, Portland, Mayville and Ripley.