Three Drown in Bridgeport After Van Sinks in Park Pond

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By William Neuman NY Times July 5, 2007

A woman and two small children died yesterday after their minivan rolled down a hill in a park in Bridgeport, Conn., and into a pond, where the vehicle sank, the authorities said. A third child who was in the van was in critical condition at a New Haven hospital last night.

The accident took place about 10:30 a.m. at Beardsley Park, a popular spot for Fourth of July picnics.

Relatives and the authorities identified the woman as Michelle McIntosh, 39, of Bridgeport. Relatives said one of the dead children was her son, David McIntosh Jr., 2. The other child who died was a 2-year-old girl, the daughter of a family friend. The girl’s name could not be confirmed last night.

The events unfolded after Ms. McIntosh drove to the park, just a few blocks from her home. City officials said that Ms. McIntosh stopped her car and got out to talk to a group of relatives or friends in another car.

But the van began to roll down a hill toward the pond, known as Bunnell’s Pond, and Ms. McIntosh ran after it, the officials said.

"The van started rolling, she attempted to get back into the van," said Michael Giannotti, a spokesman for Mayor John M. Fabrizi of Bridgeport. "She did manage to get into the van, but the van did continue forward and submerged into the water."

In an interview, Mr. Fabrizi was not able to say how long the van was in the water before rescuers were able to get the occupants out. "There was an officer on the scene within one minute of that call, and there were people, civilians, who immediately went into the water," he said. "The fire department was on the scene several minutes later, who immediately went into the water. Then a scuba team was on the scene within five minutes." He said the van sank in about 15 feet of water.

Police divers pulled the four people from the car, and they were taken to local hospitals. The three children were taken to Bridgeport Hospital, where two of them were later declared dead. The third child was later taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital, where a spokesman said he was in critical condition. Family members identified him as a nephew of Ms. McIntosh.

Ms. McIntosh, who was taken to St. Vincent’s Medical Center, was a financial adviser at Monroe College in New Rochelle, N.Y., according to a sister, Sophia Cooper, 36.

"She loved her children a lot," Ms. Cooper said. "Her whole life was devoted to her children."