Marion native dies after swim in frozen bog resevoir

Feb 23, 2021

A middle-aged man who died after entering the water at a frozen-over bog reservoir on Feb. 21 was there for a swim, according to officials.

The deceased man was identified by the Plymouth County District Attorney’s Office as Thomas Bartholomew, 44, of Wareham.

Bartholomew grew up in Marion and was the Chief Mechanical Officer for Cape Cod Central Railroad.

According to the Plymouth County District Attorney’s office, no foul play is suspected. The Chief Medical Examiner will determine the manner and cause of Bartholomew’s death.

His body was recovered at about 12:30 p.m. on Feb. 22 by members of the Wareham Fire Department and the Plymouth County Technical Rescue Team.

“So obviously this was not the outcome that we were looking for, but we did recover the body of the man who had jumped in the water,” said Wareham Police Chief John Walcek.

Bartholomew willingly entered the water at about 4:30 p.m. for a swim after making a hole in the ice — a regular activity for him, officials say. The reservoir was covered with a sheet of ice and snow.

“He didn’t fall through the ice, he actually planned on swimming in the water,” said Officer John Gerard of the Wareham Police Department. “Apparently, this gentleman liked to swim in cold water.” 

Two friends were nearby, and when Bartholomew did not resurface, they called for help. Police arrived within seven minutes. 

It is unclear whether Bartholomew was tied to a rope or anything that would assist in his rescue if he ran into trouble. 

“No ice is safe ice,” said Patrick Haskell, the assistant chief for the Wareham Fire Department. “If you really feel the need to be on the ice to go skating or whatever, go to your local rink.”

As the search continued on the night of Feb. 21, crews from Plymouth County Mutual Aid arrived, including the Plymouth County Technical Rescue Team, and crews from Whitman, Duxbury, Marshfield, and Abington.

Searches by dive teams and with sonar looked for Bartholomew until about midnight, according to the Department of Natural Resources, before returning early in the morning of Feb. 22. to continue their search for the man’s body.

On Feb. 22, in addition to searchers, crews were using underwater sonar and a submersible device with a camera to look for Bartholomew’s body.

The conditions made the search difficult, officials said.

“It’s a murky bog,” said Haskell. “A lot of tree stumps and other debris under there that we’re dealing with, along with 5 inch ice cover.”

The reservoir is about an acre and a half in size and ranges in depth from 4 to 10 feet.

“I guess basically what he does is he goes in there swimming, just about every day. He cuts two holes in the pond and just swims back and forth, from what I understand,” said Michael Miranda, who lives near the reservoir. He said he’d heard about Bartholomew’s swimming habits from neighbors. “I don’t know where he’s from, I don’t know if he’s from this area, but I guess he’s been doing that for a while.”

Miranda said that the reservoir is far from neighboring homes.

“If he was in trouble or anything, you wouldn’t even be able to know, it’s so far back there. It’s surrounded by bogs,” Miranda said. “It’s pretty secluded back there.”