Lake Mohegan drowning victim ID'd as Bridgeport girl

The 10-year-old girl who drowned Tuesday night while swimming at Lake Mohegan has been identified as Catherine Perez Trujillo of Iranistan Avenue in Bridgeport, according to an obituary from the Luz de Paz Funeral Home.

Bridgeport school officials say Catherine would have been a fifth-grader this fall at Multicultural Magnet School. Although school is not in session, officials are reaching out to any summer school students who may have known her or her family.

Catherine was born in Mexico and moved to Bridgeport with her family "some time ago," according to her obituary, published on the Luz de Paz Funeral Home website. Perez, the daughter of Valentin Perez and Camelia Trujillo, had two sisters. Calling hours will be held on Sunday from 6 to 9 p.m. at the 426 East Washington Ave. funeral home.

A fund to help the family pay for funeral and burial costs has been established at the funeral home. Anyone wishing to make a donation can go there or call 203-330-8081.

Perez was swimming with members of her family in a northern area of the lake where swimming is prohibited, police Chief Gary MacNamara said.

MacNamara said the girl was in the water with three other young relatives when they all began struggling. Her mother, Camelia Trujillo, and other relatives went into the water to rescue the children, but Perez slipped out of her grasp and went under the murky water near the Cascades.

Catherine was under water for about 45 minutes before she was located by a member of the Fairfield police dive team. Emergency responders performed CPR at the scene and the girl was taken to Bridgeport Hospital by ambulance, MacNamara said.

"Our hearts are with the family," MacNamara said. "It's a sad day."

MacNamara said he was "very proud" of the rescue efforts, but saddened by the outcome. Firefighters and police who first responded stripped down out of their uniforms and went into the water with poles and ropes to try to find the girl, while waiting for dive teams to arrive.

"A member of the police dive team was on the scene and suited up," MacNamara said. "He went into the water to try and make one pass to locate the girl, using the direction from the family as to where she went under."

The girl was found by Officer Bill Demotses in the northern part of the lake, located off Morehouse Highway.

"Their efforts in trying to locate the girl were tremendous," MacNamara said. "Unfortunately we weren't able to get her out of the water quick enough."

Swimming is only allowed bear the beach at the southern area of the lake, not in the area where the girl was found.

There is a sandy area near where the girl was in the water, but swimming is unsafe there, MacNamara said. "The water drops off suddenly; it doesn't taper off like most swimming areas" he said, adding that there also is a strong current.

The water in the area where the girl was found can be as deep as 60 feet, police Lt. James Perez said.

All of Lake Mohegan was closed to swimmers earlier Tuesday because of Sunday's high rainfall that raised the level of bacteria in the water, according to the town Health Department.

The Fairfield fire and police departments responded to the scene along with the Bridgeport and Westport dive teams. The call came in about 7:15 p.m. and the girl was removed from the water about 8 p.m.

Last August, a 39-year-old Shelton man drowned after jumping into the water from a trail in the Cascades area while fishing. A female companion told police the man, Frank Mazzabufi, started "freaking out," and jumped into the water after stripping down to his boxer shorts. He went under water and was found by a diver.

Police said last year that Mazzabufi's death was the first drowning in the lake in decades.