Haines Borough officials were scheduling a meeting this week among emergency responders, social workers, and school officials to make sure witnesses to a drowning Saturday at Port Chilkoot Dock have access to counseling.

Andrew Williamson, 14, drowned in about 10 feet of water 100 feet offshore on a warm afternoon as 50 or more people at the beach and dock – including classmates – watched the tragedy unfold.

“Everyone involved in something like this feels guilty,” said police chief Gary Lowe. “The parents, the boys who were with him, the responders who couldn’t get to him fast enough. It was a tragic set of circumstances that no one is to blame for.”

Swimmers on the beach, including ones accustomed to Lynn Canal’s icy waters, immediately dove where Williamson went down but said sediment and pollen in the water virtually blinded them.

“I went under once and couldn’t see anything. It was just murk,” said Suzanne Vuillet-Smith, who swims regularly around the dock in the summer. At least two others at the beach entered the water to search, she said.

According to police, Williamson and two classmates set out to swim to the dock lightering float, a distance of about 250 feet. One youth made it to the float but Williamson and another didn’t, and the pair turned around about midway.

Although police said Williamson let out a cry for help, the boy swimming near him told family members he saw Williamson struggling in the water and that it was he, not Williamson, who he cried out for others to help. Williamson said nothing before dropping beneath the surface, according to the boy’s account.

The frantic search that ensued included people looking for Williamson and calling his name from the beach, dock and water. A state trooper vessel and the harbor skiff were on scene by 2:51 p.m., about seven minutes after police received their first 911 calls about the boy’s disappearance.

“Crowds on the beach and on the dock were trying to see anything they could. There were multiple boats on the water. It was a very well-witnessed accident,” Lowe said.

At 3:27 p.m., 10 minutes after going in, scuba diver Kerry Town retrieved Williamson’s body close to where Williamson’s friend said he went down. Emergency crews immediately started CPR. Williamson was pronounced dead at the medical clinic at 3:44 p.m.

Lowe said Williamson wasn’t a good swimmer and didn’t like the beach “but it was where everyone else was going, so he went along with them… They were just having a day at the beach.”

Vuillet-Smith described the scene as surreal, as the three boys were close together and within view of others at the beach. “It was close in, where they were (swimming). That’s why people couldn’t believe something like this could happen.”

Vuillet-Smith said the clarity and temperature of water around the dock can vary widely, depending on tides and other conditions. She had stayed out of the water Saturday because the day was cooler than ones earlier in the week, she said.

“The water here is not forgiving and every person’s not the same in how they react to it. Some people can stay in longer.”

Police chief Lowe said Tuesday he was expecting borough officials to discuss safety at the beach in the wake of the accident.