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Girl, 6, found clinging to corpse in New York lake

Alexander Weisler / The Journal News

Police gather on the shore of Lake Gleneida in Carmel, N.Y., where a woman drowned and a 6-year-old was saved by three people fishing in a rowboat.

A 6-year-old girl found clinging to the corpse of a woman was rescued Monday from Lake Gleneida in New York by a group of people in a rowboat, police said.

The girl was taken to Putnam Hospital Center and said to be uninjured.

The woman she was with, an acquaintance of the girl’s mother, was identified as Pamela Kaner, 59, of Brewster, N.Y., according to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. She was pronounced dead at the scene, and her body was taken to the hospital, where an autopsy will be performed.

Three boaters -- two men and a woman -- who had gone out to fish on Lake Gleneida, about 55 miles outside of New York City, noticed the girl holding onto a body several hundred feet from the shore crying out for help Monday afternoon.

The child was not wearing a life vest, one of the boaters told police, so they placed a life vest on her and brought her to shore where they called Carmel police.

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Town police and rescue crews, which included a dive team from the Mahopac Fire Department and volunteer ambulance and firefighters, arrived to the lake at about 5 p.m. after receiving a 911 call, Carmel Police Sgt. John Dearman told The Journal News.

Kaner’s body was retrieved by firefighters, who paddled out in a commandeered boat. Dearman said there was no opportunity for life-saving measures to be performed on the woman.

Kaner had reportedly been watching the girl briefly while her mother took her car to the mechanic. They had been wading the in the shallows of the lake, and Kaner was holding the girl until something went wrong, the girl told police.   

“It is unknown if she had a medical event occur that caused her to drown or if they just got too far out," Dearman said. “We don’t know. We’re going to have to wait for the autopsy.”

After the rescue, police interviewed the three boaters who made the 911 call. They said they initially believed the girl was clinging to a large plastic bag and only realized it was a body after getting closer.

“I believe it was traumatic for the child,” Carmel Police Chief Michael Johnson told the Associated Press.

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A woman who identified herself as the 6-year-old’s mother was also interviewed by police at the scene. She said she had become concerned after several attempts to call Kaner earlier had failed.

The waters of Lake Gleneida, which are part of New York City’s water supply system, are the jurisdiction of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and their police detectives will be conducting the follow-up investigation.

The lake is about 730 yards across at its widest point.

In a statement, DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland said, “We are saddened by the tragedy that occurred last night on Lake Gleneida and are working with the Camel Police to determine what happened. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family.”

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