CARMEL, New York - Clinging to the floating corpse of a family friend, a 6-year-old girl was rescued by rowboat after a visit to a reservoir just north of New York City on a hot summer day turned into a horrific struggle for her life.
The girl, whose name was not released, told police that 59-year-old Pamela Kaner took her into the water in Lake Gleneida on Monday afternoon and was holding her when something went wrong. The lake, about 730 yards at its widest, is part of New York City's water supply system, and swimming there is banned.
The cause of Kaner's death was not yet known, and an autopsy was planned, said Carmel Police Chief Michael Johnson. He said she could have drowned or suffered a medical emergency while wading with the girl.
"It's very unusual when a drowning victim doesn't sink," Johnson said. "The body usually goes to the bottom and pops back up when it decomposes."
Kaner, of Brewster, was caring for the girl while the girl's mother ran an errand, police said. Two men and a woman in a rowboat heard the girl crying for help around 5 pm and found her holding on to Kaner's body.
They pulled her from the water, took her to shore and called the police. The girl was treated at a hospital but was not seriously injured.
Kaner's body was retrieved by firefighters, who paddled out in a commandeered boat.
DEP spokesman Ted Timbers said no drinking water has been drawn from the lake for more than a year because it's part of a section that has been offline while a filtration plant is built in the Bronx.
The shore of the lake, which abuts the main road of the hamlet of Carmel, is littered with rowboats, most chained or cabled to trees. Johnson said the DEP grants permits for the boats. Signs on the shore say, "Recreation by permit. Entry for other purposes prohibited."
"She shouldn't have been in the lake," Johnson said.
Only ducks and gulls were on the water on Tuesday afternoon.
Kerry Browne of Carmel, a house renovator, said, "On a nice day like this, anybody would like to jump in the lake, but you know the rules." He said he hoped the girl would be able to recover from "holding onto a body like that."