WESTFIELD – A Pennsylvania mother died after helping her son and a family friend whose inner tube drifted into deep Lake Erie waters off Shore Haven Beach at about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Chautauqua County sheriff’s deputies said.
Christen L. Stefan, 37, of Bethel Park, Pa., was pronounced dead in Westfield Hospital, where her son, Tyler, 9, was being treated for hypothermia late Wednesday.
Benjamin Bignell, 8, of Canonsburg, Pa., was not injured and was examined by paramedics after he was rescued.
Deputies said the mother swam out to help Tyler and Benjamin after waves and winds sent their inner tube into dangerously deep water.
After the mother reached the inner tube, currents sent the three drifting east to a shoreline cove featuring a rocky cliff, deputies said.
When the three reached land, they discarded the inner tube and attempted to climb the cliff.
Although Benjamin was able to climb to safety, Tyler fell back into the water, deputies said.
Stefan tried to help her son but disappeared underwater.
Tyler continued to drift east and was pushed 200 yards offshore, said deputies, who credited Shore Haven beach resident Matt Ward with swimming to Tyler and bringing him to shore.
Authorities said members of the Stefan and Bignell families are vacationing in the Westfield area.