Pond drowning when lifeguard off duty


A relative of the man who drowned while swimming in a pond last week has described his death as "tragic," recalling 19-year-old yeshiva student Moshe Yitzchok Greenfeld as "a cheerful young man who liked helping people."

Yitzchok Posen, Mr Greenfeld's cousin, was swimming with him in Highgate Men's Pond in north London on Wednesday afternoon when he sank out of sight, only to be found five and a half hours later by emergency divers.

Mr Posen said the death of "an excellent friend and relative," who was laid to rest in Stamford Hill on Friday, was avoidable. "He wasn't a very good swimmer, but he said he wanted to. I encouraged him to stay in the shallow bit, but he overestimated his abilities and decided to come out to the middle, until he got exhausted and turned around.

"We swam the other direction, deeper in. Suddenly, I heard him saying in Yiddish: 'I can't any more.' I called out to him in Yiddish, saying: 'Are you okay?' I didn't hear anything, so I called out several more times. I didn't have my glasses so I couldn't see whether he was above the water. We swam over and the water was so murky we couldn't find him.

"I'd say he didn't die because he drowned, he died because he was exhausted. He used too much energy."

The tragedy occurred after the main entrance to the pond was closed and the lifeguard was off-duty, with an open side gate and a lack of warning sign attracting swimmers to the site.

However, Mr Posen refused to blame the authorities for the death of his cousin, who had come home for a month from a New York yeshiva to celebrate Pesach with his family.

"I don't think anything needs to be changed, because all over the world you have lakes and people swim in them. People know it can be dangerous, and they swim without a lifeguard. When you swim you're at risk.

"Maybe people will argue that there should be a sign, but I don't think that these things can prevent tragedies from happening. It's very tragic but it's what Hashem wants. We can't blame anyone."

He also commended the actions of bystanders, describing how strangers leapt into the water in a desperate attempt to find Mr Greenfeld, searching for hours even after the emergency services arrived.

A local rabbi who was swimming with the men said he was taken aback by the way people with no connection to the deceased had helped straight away. The rabbi, who did not wish to be named, said: "These bystanders were heroes."

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