East Boston man, 39, drowns in the waters off Winthrop Beach

By Joseph Domelowicz Jr.

For the Transcript

Rescuers from the Winthrop Fire and Winthrop Harbormasters Departments scrambled unsuccessfully to save the life Monday night, of an apparent drowning victim on Shore Drive.

Fire Chief Paul Flanagan said Monday night that 39-year old East Boston resident Wayne Johnson has tentatively been identified as the man that was pulled from the water off Cutler Street, after a resident reported that someone had been calling for help from the water.

“We received a call at about 5:06 p.m., that a resident walking his dog on Shore Drive, had heard screams for help coming from the water,” explained Chief Flanagan.

As of late Monday night, rescuers were still hoping that they had reached the victim in time.

The Winthrop Fire Department responded to the call by getting their rescue boat to Shore Drive and launching it into the water near Cutler Street. Meanwhile, Winthrop Deputy Harbormasters Abe McAuliffe and Robert McDougall launched the harbormaster vessel from the public landing and joined the effort as soon as they arrived.

“After a thorough search of the breakers, we began searching the water around the breakers and harbormasters, MacAuliffe and McDougall, spotted the body,” said Flanagan, who praised the cooperative rescue effort undertaken by the two departments.

The drowning victim, believed to be Johnson, was quickly pulled aboard the fire rescue boat, where CPR was begun and continued as he was taken to a waiting ambulance and transported to Whidden Memorial Hospital in Everett by Action Ambulance. Though the victim never regained consciousness at the scene, there was cause for hope that he had survived after being taken away.

According to Flanagan, Johnson was later transported from the Whidden to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Brookline.

“The Beth Israel has the ability to warm the body, and since any victim who has stopped breathing but is still cold is considered viable, we’re hoping that we got to him in time,” said Flanagan.

Flanagan said rescuers did find a blanket, with clothes and car keys located on Winthrop Beach just a short distance from where the body was pulled from the water. Identification of the body was made based on items found on the beach.

“There is no real way to know if the victim simply went into the water for a swim, or if he went out to walk on the breakers and got caught by the tide,” said Flanagan. “We really don’t know how he came to be there, because we haven’t spoken to anyone that saw him go into the water.”

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