Pa. woman drowns in Westfield

WESTFIELD – What was meant to be a family fun vacation turned into a tragic loss near Barcelona Harbor Wednesday around 2:30 p.m.

According to the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office, Christen Stefan, 37, of Bethel Park, Pa., her son Tyler Stefan, 9, and family friends Benjamin Bignell, 8, of Cannonsburg Pa., and his brother Eli Bignell, 7, were vacationing in the Shore Haven area.

It was reported Tyler and Benjamin were playing on an inner tube, while Christen and Eli stayed on shore. The two boys drifted out to deeper water as the wind and waves started to pick up. Christen swam out to assist the boys, but due to the strong waves the three drifted toward a rocky cliff.

The three attempted to climb onto the cliff, with only Benjamin successfully climbing to safety. It is alleged Tyler fell back into the water and Christen attempted to help her son, but the current pulled her under. Tyler drifted about 200 yards away before Matt Ward, a resident of Shore Haven, swam out and brought Tyler back to shore.

Chautauqua County Water Rescue Captain Dennis Barmore said they pulled Christen out of the water.

Westfield Fire Department Second Assistant Chief Bradley Szymczak was at the scene when this happened.

“One child climbed up the bank to get help,” he said. “The other two were in the water still.”

Portland, Mayville and Ripley Fire Departments, Hartfield Fire Police as well as Westfield Police Department were also on scene.

Hartfield Fire Police Officer Mike O’Connell said he heard the call come over the police scanner and volunteered his services.

“This all happened around the corner from Barcelona Harbor,” he said. “Two went to the hospital. These guys (water rescuers) were good about getting them all out of the water.”

Christen and Tyler were transported to Westfield Memorial Hospital. Tyler was treated for hypothermia. Christen was pronounced dead at the Westfield Emergency Room. Benjamin was examined at the scene and released with no injuries. The investigation is ongoing.

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