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Emergency responders called to Puffer’s Pond in Amherst for report of possible drowning

  • Emergency personnel search for a missing swimmer at Puffer’s Pond in Amherst, Friday. The search for a body continued into the evening.

  • Emergency personnel search for a missing swimmer at Puffer’s Pond in Amherst, Friday. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Emergency personnel search for a missing swimmer at Puffer’s Pond in Amherst, Friday. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Emergency personnel search for a missing swimmer at Puffer's Pond in Amherst, Friday. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS



Staff writer
Saturday, May 05, 2018

AMHERST — Emergency responders were called to Puffer’s Pond for a report of a possible drowning Friday afternoon, where they searched for hours for a body.

Authorities would not say whether they found a body, though Amherst Fire Chief Walter “Tim” Nelson said Friday night that the search had ended.

Calls came over the police scanner around 1:40 p.m. from bystanders who lost sight of a man who was in the middle of the pond.

By 2 p.m., Amherst Police had closed State Street, declared the scene an active crime scene and cleared bystanders from the beach. Later, they closed the opposite beach on Mill Street too.

“The Amherst Police Department along with the Amherst Fire Department, and Regional Dive Team are currently searching the area of Puffer’s Pond in North Amherst for a missing adult swimmer,” the Amherst Police Department tweeted at 3:15 p.m.

As of 4 p.m., search crews were still in “recovery mode,” according to Nelson. He could not confirm if the case was in fact a drowning until a body is recovered.

“We’re doing a search with divers right now to see if we have the victim,” Nelson said.

Later in the evening after the search ended, Nelson referred all calls to the Northwestern district attorney’s office. A spokeswoman for that office said no information was available as of 9 p.m.

Dozens of law enforcement officials, including Massachusetts State Police, Amherst Police, University of Massachusetts Amherst police, paramedics and firefighters, gathered on the State Street beach as the search continued. Amherst Police Detective Yvonne Feliciano was at the scene interviewing witnesses.

“We finished our finals today; we were going to celebrate,” said Allison Lan, a 19-year-old University of Massachusetts freshman, who sat with her friends on the opposite beach and saw the search underway.

Abby Fitzpatrick, an 18-year-old freshman at UMass, said when they arrived around 2 p.m. they saw the search crews on the water. They stayed on the Mill Street beach for approximately 45 minutes, watching a two-person team mill around the center of the pond on a paddleboard.

“The whole time we were there we heard fire and ambulance noises,” Fitzpatrick said.

After about a half hour, a boat arrived on the State Street side of the beach, towed by a Sunderland firetruck.

“They lowered a boat into the water, then they told us to leave,” said freshman Maitreya Marathe, 19.

As of 6 p.m., crews were still searching for the body as thunderstorms threatened their progress.

“We’ve got some storms rolling in,” Nelson said. “We’re going to go as long as we can. Rain and wind we can handle, but if it’s lightning and thunder we’ll have to get out.”