WESTFIELD, N.Y. - Authorities say a Bethel Park woman drowned in Lake Erie while attempting to save her 9-year-old son and his friend after high winds blew the boys' inner tube into deep waters.
Police and fire officials say Kristen Stefan, 37, was vacationing in the Chautauqua County town of Westfield, 55 miles southwest of Buffalo.
They say her son, Tyler, and an 8-year-old friend were on an inflated inner tube around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday when high winds and strong waves drew them away from shore. Stefan swam out to help them, but the current caused all three to drift into a cove with cliffs.
The younger boy climbed out, but Stefan disappeared under the water while trying to help her son. A bystander eventually rescued Tyler.
Stefan was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Bill Narr, a neighbor on the Stefan family's Bethel Park cul-de-sac, said Kristen was a very attentive and involved parent to Tyler, the only child for her and her husband, Todd, a band director at North Allegheny.
“She was such a doting mother over her only child... She posted stuff about him (on Facebook) every day,” said Narr, 45. “You're not one bit surprised she put herself in harm's way to protect him.”
Channel 11’s Jennifer Tomazic talked with other friends and neighbors who echoed Narr’s comments.
They said Kristen’s son “was her life.”
“She was just so sweet and so nice. She was a wonderful mom. Tyler was her everything,” said Cathy Narr. “She did what any mom would do, what any parent would do, to save her kid.”
Cathy Narr said Tyler is out of the hospital, and he and his father stopped home briefly on Thursday.
“I talked with Todd for a few minutes and it’s beyond devastation. It’s only been 18 hours and he’s besides himself,” Cathy Narr said.
The Associated Press and Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.
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