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A life saved at Ocean Beach

New London — It was a typical winter afternoon on Monday when Dave Sugrue, manager for Centerplate at Ocean Beach Park, finished a meeting and peered out of the window in his office, as he does often, to survey the beach. Usually, he'll spot beachcombers and kayakers, a ferry or a tall ship. But this time, he saw something unusual — it looked like a person deep in the water on a frigid day.

He picked up his binoculars to get a closer look and confirmed his suspicions, a fully clothed person was swimming far out in the water. He grabbed his keys and raced to his truck.

Sugrue, who has worked at Ocean Beach Park for 33 years, ran down the shore to get closer to the person, a woman in her 30s. She had been attempting suicide, according to New London Fire Department officials.

Sugrue called out to her and persuaded her to come out of the water. By the time police and fire officials arrived, she had walked onto the shore.

"I always look out at the beach because it's so beautiful and to make sure everything is OK," Sugrue said. "And I always make sure to make the distinction of seeing things, not just looking at things."

That habit, he said, comes with the job.

"All of us who work here are always paying full attention to our surroundings," he said. "We're trained to have a watchful eye."

On Tuesday, that eye saved a life.

Sugrue was able to save the woman from suicide, and from the danger of being in the water on a day when temperatures dropped to about 25 degrees and the water was likely cold enough for hypothermia to set in within minutes, according to the National Weather Service and fire officials.

New London Fire Department Chief Tom Curcio said fire, police and medical responders were dispatched to the beach for a person threatening suicide. When they arrived, the woman was on the beach and conscious. She was taken by ambulance to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, Curcio said.

Sugrue said he was happy that first responders arrived so quickly to provide the woman with the help she needed. "I can't compliment the police and fire response enough," he said. "They acted swiftly and with compassion."

Sugrue said he also was very grateful that he was in the right place at the right time and that he decided to look out his window when he did.

"It's all pretty overwhelming, I'm very thankful that I was here and that I did that scan and reacted and got down there, it's crazy what can happen sometimes," he said. "I always check on the beach and I always tell people 'Always pay attention, you never know what you're going to see' — it could be a tall ship or a submarine there's always something to see."

t.hartz@theday.com

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