Fire Chief Sammons explains what happened at Silver Lake on June 23.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Christopher Daniels just kind of shrugged Thursday morning when asked about how he and his brother, Skylar, had rushed to find help when they saw a swimmer in trouble at Silver Lake.
But first-responders said the 16-year-old was loud and clear on June 23 when he called 911 to report the emergency.
"They're the ones that initiated the 911 call, and they gave clear direction," said Fire Chief Thomas Sammons. "Their quick actions, and the conviction that was in Christian's voice — we knew that he was dead serious."
Both brothers were recognized by Mayor Linda Tyer and Sammons at a brief ceremony at the Columbus Avenue fire station on Thursday morning.
"What an honor it is to be here today to recognize the outstanding first reaction, first response by these young men," said Tyer, backed by the fire company that had been on duty that day. "Who are Pittsfielders and who are to be commended for their swift action ...
"You can make a difference in the moment and on the spot."
Christopher, a student at Lee High School, and Skylar, 13, had been fishing at Silver Lake that day, something they say they do often. They were near the intersection of Fourth Street when they heard the man cry for help. He had gone past them and they could no longer see him so they called for rescuers.
Sammons said there is video of the moment the boys knew someone was in trouble taken from a neighboring home's camera.
"It showed the boys and it showed the whole event, which is tragic. ... It showed them jump up and run," he said. "And the conviction that was in Christopher's voice. We knew that he was dead serious."
Sammons said the boys were interviewed multiple times by officials that afternoon as the search for Stephen Dus, 55, of Pittsfield, went on for hours. Dus, unfortunately, was a victim of drowning. The boys never veered from their statements and Dus was found thanks to the information they were able to provide.
The mayor acknowledged that the result was not what anyone would have hoped for but added that the boys' actions that brought rescuers to the scene within minutes had helped in securing the recovery of Dus to his grieving family.
"Without the swift action of these young man, that family may not have known what happened to their loved one," she said.
Afterward the mayor referred to the saying of "see something, say something" that most often is about something suspicious.
"But it also applies to situations like this where these young men saw someone in distress, and they said something and they got an entire crew of first-responders onto the scene in very swift time," Tyer said. "You know, we've all been through an awful lot these last four or five months. And so the idea that these young boys are outside enjoying the outdoor recreation that we have to offer, and they were fishing, and then, unfortunately, they were put into a situation where they had to act quickly and without hesitation.
"They did so and this is an example of two young men who really exemplify what everyone does in the circumstance, which is to come to the aid and rescue of someone who is in distress."
Silver Lake was long a polluted extension of the former General Electric property but was cleaned out in the last decade by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The fence was taken down, a walking path put in and the small but deep lake has become a recreational jewel in the midst of the city despite lingering concerns of toxins. Swimming has been allowed, but not encouraged, and fishing is recommended as catch and release.
Sammons said there had not been any emergencies at the lake but the department is equipped to answer any incidents that occur on the water.
"We have dive rescue, Rescue 2, stationed at the Peck's Road fire station, so we always have a boat ready to go," he said. "We respond to many different bodies of water."
Rescue swimmers and the boat were deployed immediately and the dive team with the Berkshire County sheriff's department was called in. But there was difficulty in getting below 5 feet and the state police sonar scanner was used. The chief said the coordination between different entities in the Berkshires "is awesome," and really has been exemplified by their mutual work during the COVID-19 crisis.
"You know you pick up the phone, fire alarm call, and they're there and everybody works together," he said.
On June 23, the list of agencies also included the local, state and environmental police; Action Ambulance; the Stockbridge, Lanesborough and Hinsdale fire departments; and the state Department of Fire Services.
The boys, who arrived with proud family members, were given certificates from the mayor and tokens from Police Chief Michael Wynn.
"What they did was absolutely correct and even though it wasn't exactly the way we wanted it to turn out, it was the right thing to do," Sammons said.
Editor's note: The Daniels boys are no relation to this reporter.
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Pittsfield City Council to Discuss Homeless Solutions
By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday sent a group of petitions regarding the city's homeless population to the subcommittee on Public Health and Safety.
The three petitions ask officials to consider measures to safeguard the homeless and begin a conversation about homelessness within the city limits.
"I am glad we are having this discussion, and I look forward to hearing it," Councilor at Large Peter White said. "This has been an issue here for a long time and having people live in the park is not a long terms solution."
Late into the six-hour meeting Tuesday, councilors came to the agreement that although Connell is spending much of his time quarantining out of state, his primary residence is still in Pittsfield.
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