This article is from the September 2, 2022 issue of the Boston Post Gazette
By Bobby Franklin
On August 15th a woman was pulled from the water at Ogunquit Beach and after resuscitation efforts were performed she was pronounced dead. The woman has been identified as 62 year old Margaret Kelley from Harwinton, Connecticut.
The events that led to her death remain unclear. The situation happened at high tide in the water near the ramp leading down to the main beach. There is a lifeguard stand at that location.The cause of death hasn’t been disclosed awaiting a report from the Medical Examiner’s Office. Her body is still in Maine. The Ogunquit Fire Department issued a press release about the incident that stated:
“At approximately 3:00 PM on August 15, 2022, a patron visiting our beach had what is described as a medical event while in the water. The 62-year-old Connecticut woman was quickly removed from the water by lifeguards and by-standers. Resuscitation efforts were initiated by our lifeguard and EMS staff. Ogunquit Fire and Ogunquit Police Departments responded immediately to assist. Unfortunately, despite the efforts of the emergency responders the patron did not survive. The event remains under investigation by the Ogunquit Police Department and no further information is available at this time.”
I spoke with Chief Osgood of the Ogunquit Fire Department to try to get clarification of what happened that day. Chief Osgood is also head of the Ocean Rescue Team. He told me he arrived about 30 minutes after the initial call. He said he believed the description of the woman having a medical event came from her husband who was on the beach while his wife was in the water. He added it appeared she had become dizzy and was making her way to the shore. Chief Osgood said lifeguards immediately responded when they heard the commotion and pulled the woman from the water and performed CPR.
A woman who was on the beach at the time wrote “Her husband pulled her from the water…she was under for a while”. Another person who was there told me “It was her husband who had to pull her out when he realized she had gone under. He and bystanders pulled her to the edge of the water…they rolled her on her side and began CPR. By then lifeguards were watching, not participating. A nurse who happened to be nearby asked the lifeguards if she had a pulse. They said they didn’t know”.
These accounts differ from those of the Fire Department. I asked Chief Osgood if the lifeguards had written a report about the event. He said they had. I asked what was in it and he said he couldn’t remember. I asked for the names of the lifeguards who went in to pull the woman out. He didn’t know offhand. I asked for the name of the bystander who initiated CPR. He didn’t know. When I asked what the medical event was he said he couldn’t disclose that due to medical privacy issues. He said he would look at the lifeguard report and get back to me if there was information in it he could share. I also requested a copy of the report.
Earlier I spoke with Police Captain John Lazanecz of the Ogunquit Police Department. The police department is conducting the investigation into the tragedy. He gave me the name of the woman who died but didn’t have much more information to share. He said they were waiting for the Medical Examiner’s report. He did not know if an autopsy was being performed, and said the Examiner’s Office is backed up with cases.
In response to a question about when the results of the investigation would be released, Ogunquit Select Board member Heath Ouellette said he was told the police were waiting on the results of an autopsy and that could take up to two months. Captian Lazanecz told me he didn’t know if an autopsy was being performed.
There is much that remains to be learned about the terrible event that occurred on August 15th. It is still not known for certain the role of the lifeguards in aiding the woman (she is referred to by the OFD as a patron of the beach). There are conflicting accounts of what happened that day. Neither the Fire Chief nor the Police Chief were there when it happened. The people who were there tell a different story of what occurred. When witnessing a traumatic event such as this it is not unusual for people to become confused about what they saw. That it is why it is so important for a thorough investigation to take place and be made public.
My heart goes out to the family of Margaret Kelley. Not having closure must be terribly painful. Margaret Kelley was more than a “patron of Ogunquit Beach”. She was a human being who tragically lost her life that day.
I will be following up this story as I learn more.