Lifeguards reported a possible missing swimmer at Town Beach at 1:44 p.m. Wednesday, July 10. Two lifeguards had been watching a man swim laps away from shore and back. At some point, both saw the man swim out, but a few minutes later both realized that neither saw him swim back. Lifeguards called 911 immediately and began a search. They were joined by divers from Fire District 8 mutual aid, and after three hours, the search was suspended. Harvard Fire Chief Rick Sicard said lifeguards may not have noticed the man swim back and leave the beach.
Harvard Police Chief Ed Denmark told the Press that, after closing the beach, his officers checked the vehicles still parked at the beach and the school parking lot but didn’t find any whose owner was unaccounted for. They also searched for items on the beach that might have belonged to someone still in the water but found nothing. Denmark said no missing persons had been reported as of 4:45 p.m.
Sicard, Denmark, and Chief Patrick Sullivan of the Lunenburg Fire Department, who is a mobilization coordinator for the Massachusetts Fire District 8 mutual aid teams, held a press conference when the search was called off. They told reporters that after calling 911, lifeguards immediately started a “grid search” technique to search for the man. Wearing masks and fins, they formed a line and repeatedly dove down and back up in unison to search the area where the man had been seen swimming.
As District 8 dive team members from Fitchburg, Lunenburg, Leominster, Sterling, and Barre arrived on scene, they joined the search, but Sullivan said weeds impeded visibility, forcing the divers to search by hand. The team also used a boat equipped with side scan sonar, which Sullivan said can provide almost a 3-D image of what’s on the bottom of a body of water. He said the equipment requires a lot of training, but “two of our best guys” were on scene.
Chief Sicard said that the search was a fantastic team effort across the board, and Sullivan singled out the lifeguards for being professional and doing an “awesome job.” Denmark, Sicard, and Sullivan all said they were glad the lifeguards called. Sicard said, “This is what we do. We take everyone’s life seriously.”
Harbormaster Bob O’Shea posted a note on Nextdoor asking for anyone with information about the swimmer or the swimmer himself to notify Harvard police. Chief Denmark told the Press if anyone is reported missing, Harvard public safety and the District 8 dive team will return to the beach and resume the search.