WATERBURY -- Hundreds of people, many of whom were students, gathered at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Waterbury on Wednesday evening to mourn the death of 38-year-old Wanda Tirano, a mother of two and Waterbury teacher.
Tirano passed away at Danbury Hospital Wednesday morning after suffering serious injuries in a boating accident on Candlewood Lake in New Fairfield Tuesday afternoon.
State officials and police responded to the lake on reports of a missing person in the water. Police said a good Samaritan managed to rescue Tirado, but she did not survive her injuries.
"Everyone is sort of pinching themselves right now, wondering if this is real," said Jonathan DeRosa, principal of Saint Mary School where Tirado taught math and science.
"It's just been really difficult," said DeRosa.
Father Christopher Ford, the rector of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, shared a message of strength at Wednesday's prayer service.
"We just need to hold on," said Ford. "It's the only thing you can do in this kind of grief, is just hold on with all your might."
DeRosa described Tirado as the energy of their school and a constant source of joy.
"No matter what was going on, she came here with a smile," said DeRosa.
In the midst of so much grief, state officials are investigating Tirado's death.
DEEP said Tirado was on a boat prior to the accident on the water. The boat's operator, 65-year-old Gary Morrone of Oakville, is now charged with reckless operation of a vessel, failure to help a collision victim and failure to immediately notify law enforcement of an injury.
Morrone is due in court on July 3.