NEW MILFORD (PIX11) — A makeshift memorial in New Milford grew Sunday as news continued to spread of a tragedy that unfolded late Friday at Hardcastle Pond.

Clinten Ajith, a senior at New Milford High School, had jumped into the murky and dark waters of Hard Castle Pond on Friday at around 7 p.m., police said. Witnesses say he was attempting to retrieve a soccer ball. Those on the scene told PIX11 the teen was seen treading the water when he suddenly struggled to stay afloat.

Police were called when he did not resurface. Search and rescue teams from the Bergen County OEM responded, scouring the waters for over two hours. His body was recovered just after 10 p.m. Friday.

The tight knit community in New Milford is now shattered. Maria Prediger, a friend who would regularly have lunch with Ajith, says she’s still in disbelief over his tragic drowning that has left a hole in her heart.

“I feel like everyone is really on the same page with this tragedy,” she told PIX11. “We are all trying to help each other and help the family especially.”

Ajith, who immigrated with his family from India in 2012, was described as an all-around go getter, taking part in a number of school activities including musical theater, marching band and track. He was expected to head to Montclair State University to study criminal justice after graduation.

His family is now preparing to lay him to rest while detectives try to determine what happened.
A GoFundMe page, which has already raised over $52,000, has been set up for the victim’s family to help them pay for funeral expenses.

Students at New Milford High School will be having a delayed opening on Monday. Counselors will be on hand to help the students cope with the tragedy.