SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — Five lives have ended at the Leigh’s Mills Pond in the last 30 years when swimmers have attempted to reach a rock island 1,000 feet from the shoreline, and with summer heat arriving, the police chief doesn’t want to see another tragedy there.
Nothing has yet been done to prevent future drownings, and according to Police Chief Dana Lajoie, the pond is a continuous issue that needs constant police patrols.
Located on private property off Vine Street, the pond is heavily posted with no trespassing signs, but Lajoie said people disregard the warnings. “They sneak through the woods or the nearby cemetery,” he said.
Jonathan Allen, 28, of Dover, N.H., drowned at Leigh’s Mill Pond in August of 2009. He is the most recent drowning victim at the site.
Allen was a rigger at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and on that day almost four years ago he drowned 40 feet from shore. Fire Chief George Gorman said Allen was swimming with a friend toward the big rock island in the pond, but the men decided to turn around and swim back to land. While swimming back to shore, the victim’s friend turned around and saw that Allen had gone under.
In his 42 years on the fire department, Gorman has reported seven deaths at the pond, two of which were suicides. The incident in 2009, was the second drowning in three years.
Both Gorman and Lajoie agreed there are no safety precautions at the pond, and they do not permit access to the area.
“There have been many problems caused from that swimming hole on a warm summer day,” Lajoie said. “People swim at their own risk.”
Distributed by MCT Information Services