"A police officer gave up his life and we have to make sure his wife and his kids are taken care of. That's our responsibility as a community, as a city family," Councilor Morris Bergman said. "We certainly want to make sure that the city where Officer Familia served and sacrificed his life is participating and leading the effort."
Under current state law, the wife and two children of fallen Worcester Police Officer Enmanuel "Manny" Familia would not have been entitled to his full pension because drowning is not a line of duty death.
Worchester City Council on Tuesday night unanimously signed off on a change granting Familia’s wife access to those benefits after her husband’s death earlier this month, WCVB reported. The petition, proposed by Bergman, is now heading to state lawmakers, WBZ-TV reported.
Familia, a 38-year-old officer who had worked for the Worcester Police Department for five years, died on June 4 while responding to a 911 call around 1:30 p.m. about three teenagers screaming for help and struggling to stay above water at Green Hill Pond, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported.
Familia was among five officers to initially arrive at the scene and go into the water to aid the swimmers. Two teens were pulled from the water by law enforcement and survived.
But a third teen, 14-year-old Troy Love, and Familia went under, and fire department divers were summoned while onlookers at the park watched in horror. Love and Familia were both pulled from the water within the next two hours and were transported to the hospital where they were declared dead.
People occasionally swim at Green Hill Pond – though it is not permitted. Another proposal put forward by Councilor Kate Toomey passed Tuesday night called for ropes and flotation devices to be placed at each of the city’s bodies of water, better signage to be installed indicating appropriate places to swim, and a report on potentially dangerous aspects of each body of water.
"We had a wonderful hero. This has weighed heavily on all of us," Toomey said, referring to the fallen officer. "It's an even greater message to say: 'Look, if we think that there needs to be a safety device, you probably should not be going in here to swim.'"
Lawmakers at the Massachusetts State House are working on an amendment to the pension law.
Last week, state Rep. Tim Whelan filed a state budget amendment that adds a clause related to pensions for the spouses of police, firefighters and corrections officers who die in the line of duty as the result of an accident while attempting to rescue a member of the public or emergency personnel.
The amendment was co-sponsored by the Worcester delegation, several Central Massachusetts representatives and others with law enforcement backgrounds.