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Police report details events leading up to Greens Beach drowning

By Greg Smith and Izaskun E. Larrañeta

Publication: The Day

Published 12/14/2013 12:00 AM
Updated 12/14/2013 02:09 PM

New London - Before the end of her Fourth of July work day at Greens Harbor Beach, lifeguard Nora Greene walked the short stretch of sand to inform beachgoers that the facility would be closing shortly.

She and fellow lifeguard Rachel Smithson, during an interview with police, said they warned the remaining crowd that there would be no lifeguards on duty after 5 p.m. and swimming would be at their own risk at the city-owned park, according to a police report detailing the investigation of the search for 6-year-old Anthony Bernoudy, who was later found drowned.

The two, who were among the four lifeguards on duty that day, were named in the intent to sue filed by Anthony's family in October. It also says supervisors, trainers and others responsible for park safety will be sued in their capacity as city employees.

Attorney Jason Burdick of the New London law firm Messier, Massad & Burdick LLC, who is representing Anthony's estate, said Thursday the investigation into the incident is ongoing. When that concludes, the administrator of Anthony's estate will decide whether a lawsuit should be filed. Under state law, an intent to sue must be filed with a municipality within six months of a loss. A plaintiff has up to two years to file a lawsuit.

Anthony was first reported missing by his grandmother, 43-year-old Tara Bernoudy, 46 minutes after lifeguards left the beach, according to police documents obtained through a Freedom of Information request. He was last seen playing in the water, though he didn't know how to swim. Tara Bernoudy told police she last remembered seeing her grandson at about 5:12 p.m., when she called her brother on her cellphone. At 5:33 p.m., she said, she called her sister and was still on the phone when she first noticed her grandson was gone and started to look for him on the beach and park area across the street. At 5:56 p.m., she called police to report him missing.

Fiona Hook, another lifeguard who worked the day of Anthony's death, told police she recalled Bernoudy's grandparents were not paying attention and were socializing with a lot of people from their spot in the shade.

Burdick is asking people to withhold judgment until all the facts are out. "There may be information out there that may or may not be in the report," he said.

According to the report, police on July 18 sent a copy of an ex-parte order it had written requesting Tara Bernoudy's phone records to be reviewed by officials at the Huntington Street courthouse before it was sent to a judge.

On July 22, New London County State's Attorney Michael Regan requested all the reports on the drowning. The following day, New London police Capt. Steven Crowley met with Regan at the courthouse to discuss the case. According to the report, police were considering applying for an arrest warrant for Tara Bernoudy, as Anthony was in her care when he drowned.

The report said that Regan was not going to prosecute the case, but Regan said Friday he would not comment on matters that may or may not be subject to a criminal investigation.

More than a dozen officers from New London responded to investigate, spreading out to cover various leads and search the area for signs of the boy. Two reverse-911 calls went out to residents. A statewide Silver Alert was issued. Police called the U.S. Coast Guard, state police and local dive teams to assist.

Boaters in the area were advised not to start their engines. Several K-9 teams crisscrossed the area on the beach while officers drove through nearby neighborhoods calling out for Anthony on the vehicles' public address systems. Others checked the homes of known sex offenders.

Anthony's body was pulled from the water by divers at 11:21 p.m. He was taken to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

g.smith@theday.com

i.larraneta@theday.com

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