NAUGATUCK — A 12-year-old girl drowned after swimming with friends in the Naugatuck River after school Monday.
Emergency responders received a call just after 4:30 p.m. after friends of the girl, identified as Jada Ivory, noticed she was having trouble swimming in an area that was about 6 feet deep.
Some of the children, who are about the same age as Ivory, tried to save the girl, said friend Haile Clark.
“She grabbed onto my shoulders, and I was trying to bring her to the side, but the current kept pulling her,” Clark said.
Dozens of emergency responders, including local and state police, as well as firefighters from Naugatuck, Beacon Falls, Oxford, Thomaston and Morris joined in the search effort, which lasted about 90 minutes.
Along with family members and friends, they lined the Naugatuck River along Linden Park in the Union City section, and the river banks about a half-mile in either direction searching for the girl.
Many waded through the water with thermal imaging cameras trying to find her.
Finally, just after 6 p.m., 11-year-old Jacob Drost, who said he also tried to save Jada, pointed to the area where he last saw her, near Flabeg Technical Glass, formerly the Naugatuck Glass Co., at 1000 Church St. It’s where Hop Brook meets the river.
A diver searched in the water, which was above his head. He went under water and located the girl, who was unresponsive.
She was taken by ambulance to Waterbury Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Ivory was a seventh-grade student at City Hill Middle School in Naugatuck. She was a very outgoing girl, said Rebecca Selitte, Haile Clark’s mother.
Clark said her friend was incredible.
“I loved her so much,” she said. “She’s like a sister to me.”
The friends were swimming unsupervised by adults. Naugatuck officials said the river drops off in certain sections, and it gets to be at least 6 feet deep in some areas, including where Ivory was found.
Lt. Bryan Cammarata, Naugatuck police spokesman, said people do not frequently swim in the river.
“Whenever there are kids and water, it’s a dangerous combination,” he said. “We always want to make sure there’s someone there and that they are supervised.”
The scene was reminiscent of an incident in July 2006 when a then-12-year-old girl named Mariah Mahabeer drowned while swimming with friends in the Naugatuck River near Linden Park.
Administrators, teachers and staff organized a crisis intervention team for Tuesday, which will include grief counseling for anyone who needs it.
Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke said the school district was “deeply saddened” by the death of Ivory.
“The entire Naugatuck community grieves with and extends their sympathies to her family,” Locke said in a prepared statement. “City Hill Principal Brian Hendrickson has brought together a crisis team to provide support to our students throughout this difficult time. Counselors from around the district will be at City Hill today and throughout this week and longer as needed.”