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Woman who was among those trying to save New Milford swimmer talks about ‘pretty awful’ experience

NEW MILFORD -- State and local agencies have been searching a portion of Candlewood Lake since late Monday afternoon for a missing 17-year-old New Milford boy, who is presumed to have drowned while swimming with friends.

A woman, who jumped off of her boat in an attempt to bring the boy back to the surface, did a phone interview with FOX61 Tuesday to recount her nightmarish experience.

Debra Polito said she and her family were on the lake near where the incident happened, exactly when it played out.

She said she recalls seeing four swimmers in the water, swimming their way toward what’s known as Rock Island. But, panic set in, when she looked back at the swimmers again.

“I started hitting my girlfriend on the arm saying ‘there’s only three people. There are only three people,” Polito told FOX61.

So, she, her husband and friends raced on their pontoon boat to where the three people were screaming.

“We pulled one up onto our boat,” she said. “I think two of the others, I know two of the others, swam to the island, to Rock Island.”

That is an island in Candlewood Lake that this group of kids was apparently trying to swim to from shore.

“I put my life vest on,” Polito said. “Someone I was with he jumped in without a life vest.”

She said they were in the water for approximately 15 or 20 minutes.

“It was pretty awful for me because were swimming and to know he was right there below us and we can’t we couldn’t get to him was horrible,” said Polito.

Authorities told her the water temperature in Candlewood Lake is in the low 60s

“The water was just so cold and apparently his friend thought maybe he had a panic attack and went under,” she said.

New Milford Police Lt. Lawrence Ash said the search of this lake is made more difficult by the fact that the water is very murky.

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