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Family, Friends In Shock After Bethel Park Mom Drowns Trying To Save Son

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Kristen Stefan died trying to save the lives of her son and a friend.

Today, those who knew her say she was a hero.

Family meant everything to 37-year-old from Bethel Park.

KDKA's Brenda Waters Reports:

She was vacationing in Westfield, N.Y. with her husband and son, when she drowned in Lake Erie around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Stefan's 9-year-old son, Tyler, and an 8-year-old friend were floating on an inner tube when they drifted too far from shore.

Stefan swam to the boys, but as the three climbed a rocky cliff, her son fell back into the water.

She jumped in after him and never resurfaced.

Tyler continued to drift about 200 feet away from shore until a man living nearby came to his rescue.

"I saw him down at the other end, and he was down there and everyone else is in pants and jeans and I said, 'I'm a lifeguard and I'm going in,'" Ward said. "I just went for it."

KDKA's Brenda Waters Reports:

Stefan always looked forward to spending time at the lake with her family.

Kathy Narr, a neighbor, waved goodbye to the family earlier this week as they left their home with smiles on their faces.

"We're just in shock. But like any mother would do, she went to help her son. You protect your kids. She was just nothing but wonderful to Tyler. They were joined at the hip," Narr said.

Stefan was a member of Saint Louise de Marillac Church in Peters.

Faith and family were the most important parts of her life.

At his home in Hermitage, Jim Manilla takes solace in his memories of his niece and relies heavily on his faith.

"We are a very close family," he said. "We're devout Catholics; we spend a lot of time together. Faith is everything."

Manilla says the family was staying at Stefan's in-law's place while vacationing.

KDKA's Trina Orlando Reports:

On Facebook, Stefan's husband wrote the following to his friends:

"I love you all... But feel so alone, betrayed, angered, heartbroken... I have no words. I can't sleep and have not eaten anything since I ate the lunch Kristen made me before she took the boys swimming."

He went on to ask for prayers for the love of his life and their son.

Doctors in New York treated Tyler for hypothermia, but he's expected to be okay. Tyler's friend was not hurt.

"Tyler was her everything," Manilla added. "So many times he would say, 'Mommy, look at this.' Or, 'Mommy, look at that.' That's going to be the toughest thing for him and Todd, too."

More Local News
Bethel Park Woman Drowns Trying To Help Son In Lake Erie
More Reports From Trina Orlando

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