6-year-old boy who drowned in pool at Liberty Lake Day Camp in New Jersey identified

Wednesday, June 26, 2024
6-year-old boy drowns in pool at Liberty Lake Day Camp in New Jersey
6-year-old boy drowns in pool at Liberty Lake Day Camp in New Jersey

MANSFIELD TWP., New Jersey (WPVI) -- An investigation is underway after a 6-year-old boy drowned in a pool at a camp in Mansfield Twp., New Jersey this week.

He was identified by camp officials on Tuesday as Michael Stewart from Lumberton, New Jersey.

The incident happened around 2 p.m. Monday while Stewart was at Liberty Lake Day Camp off Florence Columbus Road.

In a letter to families, the owner and director of the camp, Andy Pritikin, said a lifeguard found the boy unresponsive in a shallow pool.

Staff members immediately pulled Stewart out of the water and administered CPR, but he was pronounced dead at the hospital.

"I am so sorry this happened," Pritkin said Tuesday while addressing families.

It was the first day of camp for the summer. Camp officials say the boy was in the freshman division, which means he was going into their first or second grade.

Stewart was part of an inclusion program for children with additional or special needs, officials say.

Pritkin says at the time of the drowning, a group leader, two counselors, and three adult advocates -- one of whom was assigned to Stewart -- were supervising the activities.

Four lifeguards were also reportedly on duty at the time.

"I am so saddened, upset, filled with grief," said Pritkin. "Michael was seen by a lifeguard and immediately pulled out of the water."

It is unclear at this time how long Stewart may have been underwater.

This is a camp where hundreds of kids come each summer and many are bused from other areas.

"We are absolutely devastated and heartbroken. Our thoughts at this most difficult time are with our camper's family, friends, and loved ones - and we are respecting their privacy at this time," Pritikin said.

He also noted that this incident marks the first serious issue, injury, or death in more than 20 years at the camp.

Pritikin has owned the camp since the early 2000s.

A licensed clinical social worker who works exclusively with children is said to be helping campers through this difficult time.

"The safety and well-being of our campers and staff is our number one priority. We have three registered nurses on staff, 25 lifeguards certified in first aid/CPR/AED, and the Mansfield First Aid Squad located just down the street. Our goal is always to do everything possible to the best of our abilities to protect the campers and staff in our care," Pritkin's letter reads.

The camp was operating as normal on Tuesday. Chopper 6 video shows children in the pool and lifeguards on duty.

Pritkin said while the decision was difficult, he felt it was important to provide normalcy for campers and staff.

He also said the camp exceeds lifeguard ratios and standards set by governing bodies and that he feels the safety protocols are sound.

However, moving forward he said all staff will be required to be in the water with children and a buddy check system will be in place.

The camp has been working with law enforcement during the investigation, a spokesperson said.