Shelton man ID'd as Lake Mohegan drowning victim
The body of a 39-year-old man who drowned Thursday morning at Lake Mohegan was found by dive teams at midday after searching nearly two hours.
The man was identified by police as Frank Mazzabufi, a Shelton resident, late Thursday afternoon.
Police and fire personnel were dispatched to search for a man who witnesses reported seeing jump off a wooded path into the water shortly after 10 a.m., and then begin struggling.
Lifeguards based at the lake's beach dove in and started swimming out toward the man on their surf boards, but he sank under water before they could reach him.
Mazzabufi apparently was at the lake fishing with a female companion, who later told police that he began "freaking out" and asking, "Am I OK, am I OK?" before he stripped down to white boxer shorts and plunged into the lake.
Another witness, Sarah Green, a Westport resident walking her dog on the opposite side of the lake, said the man had been fishing from the edge of the lake and then went into the water. "He was seemingly wading in the water, perhaps to get a better fishing spot," she said. Suddenly, Green said, he went down and his head bobbed up a few times and he shouted for help. Another person walking a dog along the trails abutting the lake called "911" while others, she said, "screamed for the lifeguards, who paddled over as fast as they could but he had been under for a few minutes by that time."
Another dog walker reported the man stripped off his clothes and ran into the water
"Witnesses saw him go and at the same time, the lifeguards noticed him," Police Chief Gary MacNamara said. Mazzabufi was swimming in a restricted area and that caught the lifeguards' attention, he said. "They got close enough to determine he was in distress," before Mazzabufi sank under water and did not resurface. The lifeguards were unable to find Mazzabufi after he sank.
The Fairfield Fire Department's dive team was first on the scene and began searching for the man, with backup later provided by dive teams from the Fairfield Police Department, the Westport Police and Fire departments, and the Trumbull and Bridgeport Police departments.
The search was hampered by what officials said murky conditions in the lake. Visibility was about 5 or 6 feet for divers with a mask on, said Deputy Fire Chief Art Reid, but with the water stirred up by the rescue operations, it was reduced to virtually zero. "A lot of this (search) is going to be by touch," Reid said.
Mazzabufi's body was eventually found about 15 or 20 feet from where he was last seen in the water. His clothes and a fishing pole were found on the shore where he went into the water, and his car was on Morehouse Highway.
It was the second drowning in Fairfield this summer. An elderly woman drowned in July while swimming at Jennings Beach. The last drowning at Lake Mohegan is believed to have been several decades ago. Swimming is allowed only at the beach area on the southern end of the lake.
The lake's beach was closed during the rescue and recovery operations, but was reopened by 1 p.m. The lifeguards involved in the rescue were allowed to go home, Parks and Recreation Director Gerald Lombardo said.
Emergency personnel and witnesses all praised the efforts of the lifeguards. "It's unfortunate," Lombardo said, of the drowning. "The lifeguards all acted professionally."
Interim First Selectman Michael Tetreau, a former lifeguard himself, said the community's thoughts and prayers go out to the victim's family.