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UPDATE: Police Find Body of Man Who Drowned in Ramapo Reservation Lake

Woman lost sight of her boyfriend when the two went swimming in a restricted lake at the reservation, police said

Bergen County Police located the body of a man in his mid-20’s who was swimming illegally in the upper lake at the in Mahwah Thursday afternoon, Sgt. Robert Abrahamsen confirmed.

The body was located at about 4:55 p.m., he said. “I am not sure how the body was located, whether it was with the [, or by a diver,” Abrahamsen said.

At about 2:44 p.m. Thursday, police received a 911 call from a woman in her mid-20’s reporting that she and her boyfriend had swam across the upper lake, BCPD Lt. Jim Mullin said. “She said that she had made it to the other side, but when she got there she didn’t see him.”

The county’s Water Search and Recovery team conducted a water search in the MacMillan Reservoir Thursday afternoon, Mullin said. The search began as a “rescue” but changed to a “recovery” during the over two-hour search, he said.

The identity of the man was not immediately released pending notification of his family members, police said.

According to Mullin, the couple was swimming in a restricted lake that does not allow swimmers. “They apparently ignored the posted signs,” he said.

Mahwah Police and Ambulance Corps responded to the incident as well.

Andy Schmidt September 13, 2012 at 09:09 PM
McMillan Reservoir is a very popular swimming hole frequented mostly by college-age kids. The unmarked footparth around the lake leads to two large rocky outcroppings on the east shore that are typically used for sunbathing (and occasional partying) - but it's not the least unusual to see people traversing the lake, even towards the dam. On any given summer weekend, there'll probably be a close to 100 people swimming there over the course of two days. But even on warm summer weeknights, there'll be groups of young people with towels still walking up to the lake. Hopefully things will turn out okay after all.
Really!! September 13, 2012 at 11:53 PM
How horribly sad...many thoughts and prayers to this young man's family and his girlfriend.
tracyw September 14, 2012 at 10:40 AM
There you go again Andy! The patch man strikes again! You are a keyboard cowboy, who refuse to stand up at a council meeting and say something. trying to sound like the smartest man in the world, while playing on your computer, is awesome. I enjoy reading the articles on patch, just to see what you have to say!!!
Hank September 14, 2012 at 11:51 AM
did they use Mahwah's dive team also? seems like they would be the closest for a rescue
Andy Schmidt September 14, 2012 at 12:15 PM
Thank you Tracy. You don't know what your love and encouragement means to me.
Jimmy John September 14, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Comeon its only a 15 minute ride from Hackensack to mahwah....
Hank September 14, 2012 at 09:00 PM
Dumb question: why did they send a crew to drive from Hackensack to make a "rescue" in a remote area in Mahwah? I would think that takes a long time. Don't they have a helicopter with a diver? I'm just asking ,I dont know. Seems like any big accident, they can get a chopper in quick. Did they call in Mahwah rescue?
Andy Schmidt September 14, 2012 at 09:43 PM
Hank, you don't just put a diver on a helicopter and have him rapell into the water and start roaming around a 300,000 sq ft lake. That only happens in cheap action flicks. The idea is not to make matters worse and end up with additional people needing rescue. Dive operations require not only divers, but also surface tenders (who can see which area a diver is searching, and direct the diver which area still needs to be searched), ready-divers (fully suited, standing by to assist the in-water diver in case he/she runs into trouble underwater) - and extensive amount of equipment. Very seldomly can you just jump in the water (e.g., when you can see where a submerged vehicle is). In yesterday's case, the location of the victim was not even known (the reports say the female didn't realize the male was missing until she got to the far side of the lake - so the male could have turned around at some point, could have changed direction to aim for a closer point at the shore,...). So you start with an interview of witnesses to see if you can establish a submersion point. People don't realize how important qualified/trained surface support is when conducting a search. You don't want to search the same area twice (loss of crucial time), but you also dont't want to skip a small patch and miss precisely what you look for.
Andy Schmidt September 14, 2012 at 09:51 PM
cont... People also don't realize what the bottom of these lakes look like. Imagine decades of organic debris (leaves, branches) having decomposed and accumulated all along the bottom. Some places you can stick your arm to your shoulders into the soft "muck" and never be able to actually reach hard bottom! Just the act of swimming across that bottom can kick up that silt and instantly turn this into a "black water" dive - where you cannot see your own hand in front of your facemask. Lights and eyes become useless and you operate strictly by sweeping your hands across the bottom while the surface tender keeps track of your position and guides your every move. In addition, there might be monofilament fishing line and lost hooks that can snag you up. There can be submerged trees and branches that create entanglement hazards in zero visibility. So - this is different from "liveguarding" at the town pool, where you have (fairly) clear water and a clean, hard and even bottom - and ideally you just jump in, see the victim on the bottom of the pool, swim over and pull them up. Dive operations are carefully orchestrated and very involved - with the goal to have efficiency while managing the risks to the diver.
Jimmy John September 14, 2012 at 10:25 PM
You may know diving....but so does mahwah rescue they have a fully functioning dive team. Why wait for the county coming from hackensack when you have it a few minutes away
Jimmy John September 14, 2012 at 10:32 PM
County police trying to get positive press.....
Really!! September 15, 2012 at 12:31 AM
The only thing that really matters here is that a young life has been lost. It leaves a pit in my stomach because while the rescue/recovery was going on I was at the park with my family and you could tell that something was very wrong. The above comments do make me wonder however, does anyone know how deep the lake is? I just wish the young man could have swam to safety.
Hank September 15, 2012 at 11:50 AM
Thanks Andy for the info. I just thought it strange the county stated they got there to rescue someone. If your coming from Hackensack there is no rescue. I guess you only have a few minutes to rescue someone who is missing in a lake. I doubt if you can stop people from swimming up there. It is a traditional spot to swim for a long time. We used to sneak into Graydon pool at night and it was in the middle of Ridgewood down the street from the police station, sometimes someone would get caught but it never stopped us.
07430 September 15, 2012 at 08:37 PM
I agree with Jimmy. Why?!! The Mawah residents who volunteer their services knows Mahwah and could of gotten there a lot faster then someone who has no idea where to go from Hackensack. Mahwah has an excellent FD and Rescue team which BTW has a DIVE TEAM!! Why didn't we utilized them? I guess this is another way for the Mayor to say Mahwah couldn't do the job fast enough.
T-Bird 148 September 15, 2012 at 08:45 PM
Mahwah's dive team is out of service. Regardless, they were never requested.
Ed September 15, 2012 at 10:40 PM
Can't wait to read the autopsy report.
Andy Schmidt September 16, 2012 at 01:47 AM
Hank - remember, no one actually saw a person "go under". All that was reported was that he was not at the far end of the lake. He could have had a cramp, or tired, and just turned around, passed out on the shore etc... I would expect them to conduct a search of the shore line, hoping for a "rescue" before assuming the worst. As far as rescuing someone who has been submerged - your best chances are in sudden submersions into near freezing water (because of the slowing of the metabolism triggered by the mammalian diving reflex) and with small children - in an extreme case up to 20 minutes. With a swimmer who had been acclimated to the water temperature, and with fairly warm surface water, chances of reviving someone are fairly small.
Andy Schmidt September 16, 2012 at 02:01 AM
Ed, why would the M.E. order one?
Andy Schmidt September 16, 2012 at 02:02 AM
Don't know if there's an "official" figure - my personal observation a while ago had been around 25 ft.
Andy Schmidt September 16, 2012 at 02:17 AM
Cheryl - you seem to think that the Mayor answers 911 calls? This is a County Park and thus policed by the BCPD! The leadership at the County Police then has to make quick decisions. To them, the state of their OWN dive unit is a known entity (they know their ready-status, who is already on duty and who can be alerted, the type/extend/frequency/recency of training for its members, ) - so I'm not surprised they would activate their own team immediately, and then assess whether any municipal resources are needed. I don't think the newspaper reports supply enough information to know all the factors that went into County's decision.
Ed September 18, 2012 at 08:58 PM
Unknown cause. Was he on drugs, alcohol, suffer a stroke, heart attack etc. You need a definitive cause of death for the death certificate and, in a case like this, it would be pure speculation on why the young man died. A supposedly accomplished swimmer doesn't just drown when another swimming partner (accomplished?) makes it to the other side. Interesting isn't it Andy that today's Record reported that an autopsy WILL BE PERFORMED! Doesn't take a genius to know why.
Andy Schmidt September 18, 2012 at 09:46 PM
Thanks, Ed. I don't know the current policies in Bergen County, that's why I asked for your insight. As far as the public's interest, it would suffice to know that it was accidental, no contagion was suspected,etc. - the rest is a private matter. So the M.E. might have just confirmed a manner (drowning). Of course, the family might have an interest to learn more - but sometimes loved ones don't share the public's curiosity in times like this, and see no need to request a more in-depth study. Anyway, I saw the article this morning as well.
Chris September 18, 2012 at 10:58 PM
I read that they used sonar to locate the body.
Ed September 20, 2012 at 09:06 PM
Andy, I agree with you concerning the public's curiosity and that it should remain private; be that as it may...


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