Posts Tagged ‘drownings’

Monday, July 7, 2014

Search And Rescue Stories: Ranger Orville Betters

raquette fallsA striking old black and white photograph of a Forest Ranger posted on the NYSDEC Twitter feed recently caught my attention and captivated my imagination. The tweet read “Ranger w/pack basket putting up Canoe Carry Trail sign. Raquette Falls in the (Adirondacks) 1949.”

The ranger had a striking pose, wearing a Stetson, boots tightly laced half way to his knees. The ranger’s face was hidden from view, not surprising for a profession, that – especially then – toiled in the outdoors, their daily routine invisible to the public. I quickly tweeted back “Do you know who that is?”  Unfortunately no one did. » Continue Reading.



Thursday, July 4, 2013

Swimming: Beware Of Fast Currents This Weekend

Swimming Dangerous CurrentThis Fourth of July weekend use extreme caution at local swimming holes, and near raging rivers and streams. Fast moving rivers and streams can pose great dangers. Do not underestimate the force of moving water and strong currents. The high, fast water the Adirondacks is experiencing due to recent heavy rains was the cause of two deaths this week in treacherous currents.

A Whitehall man was swept under while swimming with family in the Mettawee River in Granville on Saturday. Also, a Franklin County man, a father of three, went over Rockwell Falls in Lake Luzerne on an inflatable raft on Sunday.

Adirondack history includes additional examples of people who have ventured into fast-moving waters with tragic results. For example, in 2003 four teenagers, two co-captains of their high school swim team, were drowned at the Boquet River’s Split Rock Falls after one entered the fast moving current and his three friends attempted rescues.  Since the mid-1990s, five people have drowned in dangerous whirlpools of the Schroon River.  » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Hudson River Rafting: Pat Cunningham’s Rocky Ride

On March 30, 2012, Hamilton County Court gave Patrick Cunningham a second chance. It came with conditions and a warning.

Judge S. Peter Feldstein told the defendant: “My goal in this matter, as I said at the beginning, was to affect how you do business. Now, I understand, Mr. Cunningham, through your attorney, that you do not feel that you’ve committed any crimes and you’re perfectly within your rights and you’re innocent before this court, but I want to be sure you understand that if you engaged in the behavior alleged in the indictment, I have no doubt that you committed crimes.” » Continue Reading.



Friday, September 28, 2012

Rafting Guide Arrested in Drowning

A woman drowned on a rafting trip in the Adirondacks yesterday morning, and State Police say her guide was intoxicated.

Rory F. Fay of North Creek, a guide for Hudson River Rafting Company, faces a charge of criminally negligent homicide, a felony, according to state troopers.

Fay was guiding two clients from Columbus, Ohio—Richard J. Clar, 53, and Tamara F. Blake, also 53—on a trip down the Indian and Hudson rivers. Before they made it to the Hudson, Blake and Fay were ejected from the raft, police say. Clar stayed in the raft and steered it to shore. » Continue Reading.



Thursday, April 5, 2012

Safe Adirondack Boating in Cold Waters

With days reaching into the 50s, but much colder waters in still in the mid-30s, it’s a great time to remind paddlers and other boaters of the dangers of falling overboard in cold water. Of New York’s 25 fatalities associated with recreational boating in 2011, almost a third of those deaths involved small paddled boats, when water temperatures were cold.

In almost every one of those fatal accidents life jackets were not worn and in some cases weren’t even on board at the time of the accident. The Coast Guard estimates that 80% of all boating accident deaths might have been prevented had a life jacket been worn. In New York, life jackets are required to be worn on any boat less than 21 feet in length between November 1st and May 1st. » Continue Reading.



Thursday, March 15, 2012

Case of the Missing North Creek Game Protector

This week’s story of murdered Schroon Lake Special Game Protector William Jackson sparked an inquiry from one of the Almanack‘s regular readers. TiSentinel had heard the story of longstanding rumors of foul play in the death of a game warden at Jabe Pond in Hague and wanted to know more.

The story he was referring to is that of 21-year-old Special Game Protector Paul J. DuCuennois of North Creek who disappeared on October 16, 1932 while patrolling Jabe Pond; his car was located at the end of the trail to the pond. He was reported drowned by Charles Foote and Wilson Putnam, who said they saw him go into the water from the other side of water. They told authorities they rowed to the spot of DuCuennois’s swamped and overturned canoe, but could not immediately locate his body. Nearby his jacket lay floating, the men said, and in its pocket, the key to the game warden’s car. » Continue Reading.



Monday, September 26, 2011

North Country Stories of Survival

No bones were broken. It’s a statement of relief that frequently appears in accident reports, emphasizing the fact that perhaps bones should have been broken, but due to amazing luck or some other reason, the victim survived perilous circumstances to emerge relatively unscathed. Stories of that type appear occasionally, and they’re always interesting.

It’s remarkable that in July 1895, three North Country survival stories appeared on a single newspaper page. Forget broken bones—it’s amazing that any of the victims survived. Yet among the three, there was only one broken bone.

Fourteen-year-old Frank Blanchard of Buck’s Bridge, about eight miles north of Canton in St. Lawrence County, was driving a load of hay when he fell from the wagon. He unfortunately fell forward, and as the horses drew the loaded wagon down the road, it ran over his shoulders and neck.

Despite the brush with death, young Blanchard was apparently intact and reportedly on the way to a quick recovery.

Along the Black River in Jefferson County, Mrs. Carl Hart was performing a routine chore in the field, untying a cow for milking. As she did so, a train passed by, spooking the cow, which bolted for parts unknown.

The rope became wrapped around Mrs. Hart’s ankles, and in an instant she was being dragged to almost certain death. Her body bounced terribly across the rough ground and then into the underbrush, where branches and thorns tore at her clothing and skin. The resistance of dragging through the brush caused the rope to slide down until it finally pulled her shoes off. That may well have saved her life.

The cow continued, but Mrs. Hart was left lying unconscious in the brush, bleeding from a multitude of cuts and scrapes, and nearly naked, her clothing having been shredded. Noticing her unusual absence from the home for so long a period, Mr. Hart began searching, and about thirty minutes after the incident, he found her.

After carrying his wife’s limp form to the house, Mr. Hart tended to her wounds and summoned a doctor. When Mrs. Hart finally regained consciousness, it was determined that she had suffered a broken bone in her right arm. It was termed “a miraculous escape from a terrible death.”

In Chateaugay, ten-year-old Delor Bushey and some friends spent a hot summer day playing in the river above a waterfall. The strength of the current proved too much, and young Delor was swept downstream over the 35-foot-high falls.

Landing on his head and shoulders, he was drawn into the whirlpool at the base of the falls, and it was five minutes before his friends finally managed to pull Delor ashore, an apparent drowning victim.

His body was taken to the Bushey home, where a doctor found signs of life in the boy. But Delor remained unresponsive, and as the hours passed, hope faded.

Then, in the unlikeliest of outcomes, he regained consciousness about eight hours after plunging over the falls. On the very next day, he was out and about as usual.

Despite sliding along the rocky riverbed and dropping 35 feet, Delor’s final assessment was — no bones were broken.

Lawrence Gooley has authored nine books and many articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004 and have recently begun to expand their services and publishing work. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.



Monday, August 18, 2008

A History of Schroon Lake Drownings Recalled


With all the news about Michael Phelps medal wins at the Olympics, some Adirondack Almanack readers may have missed the two tragedies that occurred on Schroon Lake last week.

On Sunday night, two boats (both running without navigation lights) collided just before 11 p.m. A Boston Whaler operated by 17-year old Gerald Smith turned in front of a Hydrostream Vector (operated by Brett D. Bernhard, 20, of Horicon). Daniel Miller, 20, also of Horicon and a passenger on the Hydrostream, was hit in the head during the collision and knocked unconscious. He was taken by ambulance to Moses-Ludington Hospital in Ticonderoga and then transferred to Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington – he was in critical condition with a severe head injury.

Then on Tuesday night, Elizabeth A. Weiner, 81, of Cazenovia, drowned behind the Davis Motel, near where her family has a summer camp: “Investigators said Mrs. Weiner left her camp to go wading by herself in Schroon Lake. She was a seasonal resident of Schroon Lake, police said, and known to be a non-swimmer.”

Visitors and locals alike fall from shore, docks, and out of boats of all sorts. In the days of closer connection to lakes and waterways for drinking, washing, ice, work, transportation, and entertainment, drownings were far more common. “Many Drowned Sunday” reads one report from 1910 that gives accounts of “several accidental drownings” in Connecticut; three drowned in the Delaware River near Philadelphia; a man and woman in the Ohio River and another near Scranton; the bodies of Eddie Hammond and Harold Driscoll (both nine) discovered in the Varnick Canal in Oswego, NY; John Whalen and Francis Forti drowned in a creek near Albany. That same Sunday Frank Namo was drowned bathing in the Black River, and the Brooklynite superintendent of the Lake Placid Yacht Club, Oscar C. Nicholas, was also drowned while bathing. Swimming has taken the largest toll by far.

I thought I’d take a closer look at drownings in Schroon Lake to get an indication of what the overall historic statistics may look like. In the twenty years between 1924 and 1944 – a time when the resort area was in its heyday – at least 14 people drowned, plus two more in nearby Gull Pond, and at least one in Trout Brook which runs into Schroon, a number of other drowned in the Schroon River.

Of the fourteen, two were women (both servants), the rest were all males, including two boys. The vast majority were under the age of 30. Two, in different incidents, were men on their honeymoons (both were staying at Moon Hill Camp). Two were employed by the Little Club and two by Scaroon Manor. Three were laborers. Five of the fourteen were locals.

What follows is a look at all the drowning deaths I could locate in local papers for Schroon Lake between about 1875 and 1950:

On September 15, 1884, 80-year old Hiram Jenks, described in a local paper as “the best known fisherman and guide in Essex county,” was found drowned in Schroon Lake near the Grove Point House. He had left home on a fishing expedition the night before.

A 1906 newspaper article “A nurse had a cramp while bathing and sank,” described the death of a Miss White, who drowned while swimming with her employers children in Schroon Lake.

In October of 1908 alcohol appeared to be a factor in the drowning of Frank DuBois, employed building a road nearby. According to a local newspaper report DuBois had, “left his boarding place to go to the village for supplies. He left the village to return and the next day the empty boat was found together with his coat and a bottle nearly filled with alcohol.” His body was found nearly a month later on a sandy beach about a mile and a half south of Schroon Lake Village.

William Brandies, a waiter at the Leland house was drowned in Schroon Lake in July 1920. Brandies had gone out in a canoe and not returned; the empty boat and his body were recovered later. He was about 35 years old and had lost two brothers in World War One.

In July of 1924, Esmond Smith of Adirondack (on the east side of Schroon Lake) and David Middleton loaded a quantity of tile and brick into a flat bottom boat with a small motor. They set out in rough waters to a cottage a few miles distant from Adirondack but were soon swamped. Middleton, 70, swam to shore, but Smith, 40, apparently could not swim and drowned.

In July of 1928, two employees of Scaroon Manor were drowned when one, Erma Treppow, 22, of Brooklyn, slipped off a submerged ledge into deep water. She could not swim so Edward Maggiogino of Long Island jumped in to save her. Treppow panicked and grabbed her would-be rescuer, dragging them both under while two other women watched helplessly from shore.

In September of 1929, Edwin Buchman, a wealthy Troy manufacturer and a summer resident of Schroon Lake, was believed to have had a heart attack or stroke and to have fallen into Schroon Lake near the former O’Neill property which he owned. He had planned to take a swim before breakfast but never returned. His body was found in shallow water.

In October of 1929, Fred McKee of Pottersville, Elmer Liberty of Olmsteadville, and Angus Montayne of Schenectady were transported a 50-gallon drum of gasoline in their motorboat from Charles Bogle’s boathouse to Isola Bella Island on Schroon Lake. The lake was rough and when the motor stalled the barrel rolled forward and capsized the boat throwing all three men into the water. McKee and Montayne, who could not swim, attempted to hold onto the barrel. They soon disappeared as Elmer Liberty watched; he survived by clinging to the overturned boat. Forty men, under the supervision of John Flannigan, began dragging the lake for the bodies. They were recovered the same day.

In June 1933, Brooklyn newlyweds Louis and Elsie Gerber left their honeymoon digs at Moon Hill Camp on Schroon Lake in a canoe with Mrs. Robert Epstein of the Bronx. They got about 150 feet from shore when the canoe capsized. A man driving by saw the three clinging to the sides of the canoe, stopped his car, and rowed out to them in a rowboat. According to the Ticonderoga Sentinel, Louis Gerber told the man that he alright and to take the women ashore first – when the men returned Louis was gone. “A searching party was quickly organized,” the Sentinel reported, “but it was not until evening that the body was recovered. The body was taken to Brooklyn by the broken-hearted bride whose honeymoon was so tragically ended.”

Just one month later, in July of 1933, Paulding Foote Sellers, recent graduate of Hamilton College and captain of the college’s football team (and nephew of Admiral David Foote Sellers, died after diving into Schroon Lake – “he sank without a struggle.” It was surmised by the local coroner that he “had a weak heart.”

Parry Lee Shivers, 25, an African American maid, was drowned in Schroon Lake in August of 1937. Shivers was in a boat with another African American maid, 18-year-old Carrie William who later told a newspaper what had happened: “She spoke to Miss Shivers as they were returning to the shore, and there was no response. She turned and was amazed to discover that her friend was not in the boat. Hastily scanning the water in the vicinity of the boat, she saw Miss Shivers swimming about sixty feet away. According to her story, she called to her, but gained no response. A few seconds later Miss Shivers sank beneath the surface and failed to reappear.”

In 1926, a thirteen-year-old George Plumley of Minerva fell from a dock and drowned. In 1938, an eight-year old Schenectady boy, Robert Crossman, was drowned near his parent’s camp opposite Moon Hill Camp. His eleven-year-old sister found his body; he had been last seen just a few minutes before on the camp dock but failed to show for lunch.

In June of 1940 Louis Kankewitz, 30, of New York City was drowned when the canoe he was paddling alone capsized near Eagle Point. He and his new bride were staying at Moon Hill Camp – it took a week to find his body.

Another Brooklynite drowned in July of 1944. Melvin Leon, 16, had jumped into the water at the Leland Hotel’s beach to save George Solow, 17 (also of Brooklyn). The boys were employed at the Little Club, They had been fooling around in a row boat when Solow jumped into the water with the oars; when he lost the oars and couldn’t get back into the boat, Leon jumped in to help him. A third young man in the boat tried in vain to paddle the boat against the wind with his hands. Another boater eventually rescued Solow, but it was too late for Leon.

Almost one year to the day, another young man employed by the Little Club drowned while trying to retrieve an errant boat. Schroon Lake native Glenn Cramer, 16, went out towards Keppler’s Point when his own rowboat overturned; he could not swim. A passerby yelled to him to hold onto the overturned boat but Cramer panicked and was gone by the time his would-be rescuer arrived.



Sunday, October 2, 2005

Lake George Cruise Boat Ethan Allen Tragedy

The 40-foot cruise boat Ethan Allen capsized on Lake George according to Capital News 9 [New York Times Report] They are now reporting that it happened at 3 pm and that 49 senior citizens were on board, which is too many in our minds for such a small boat.

The Associated Press is reporting 21 were killed making it the most deadly tragedy in the history of Lake George and the Adirondack Region. We’ve been told that the emergency room at Glens Falls Hospital was overwhelmed and force to send patients to Saratoga Hospital. The AlbanyEye is reporting on the reporting.

The Ethan Allen was one of the first boats operated by Shoreline Cruises when they began in the mid-1970s. At the time their berth was at King Neptune’s Pub in Lake George Village, it is now located beside it, within view of the camera Captial News 9’s cuts to when they go out to commercials and during the weather reports.

Similar accidents on Lake George have occurred.

On July 30, 1856 the 140-feet long John Jay (built in 1850) was delayed at Ticonderoga’s Baldwin Dock waiting on passengers coming by stagecoach from Lake Champlain, where the large number of passengers required several trips to get everyone to the boat. It wasn’t until 7 pm that the John Jay, now loaded with 70 passengers backed away from the dock. About an hour later they were ten miles down the lake. Below, the fireman stoked the boilers with inferior pitch pine as they made top speed – then the worst happened. “Owing to that old bonnet on the smoke stack,” the Engineer was reported to have told one of the passengers, “it stopped the draft, and forced the flame out of the furnace doors.” The flues had filled with soot, filling the boiler room with smoke and driving the fireman above, but not before he could get the firebox doors shut. The sparks ignited the woodwork over the firebox. “I saw a dense mass of smoke puff out-then another,” one passenger later recalled “and there was an instantaneous and indiscriminate… scramble for places of safety.” Captain Gale, on hearing the alarm, ran to the wheelhouse and ordered the pilot to steer at top speed for shore a half mile away as he yelled to try and calm the passengers. The rest of the crew began fighting the fire.

In the meantime the passengers at the rear of the steamer in the path of the smoke tried to make their way forward. Some of the men tried to inflate the life preservers but found them inoperable. Another man, T. C. Thwing, of Boston, tried to lower the one lifeboat that hung amidships but the flames were already spreading to prevent it. The passengers crowded into the steamer’s bow “men, women and children, not knowing but the next moment would be their last… mothers clinging to their children, and children holding fast to parents. Fathers, with pale faces and compressed lips, watching the progress of the flames, and looking about for the means of escape when the boat should reach the shore, – women, young and fair, gathered around their protectors and asking piteously: Is there no way to be saved?” a passenger later wrote.

As they approached the shore the boat struck a rock hard and nearly keeled over. It was then that some of the panicked passengers, five in all, including Thwing’s wife Annie and his-sister-in law, jumped or were thrown overboard. Some leapt into the water with deck chairs and anything they could find that would float as the flames spread cutting the tiller lines and making the boat impossible to steer. Some made it shore but five were drowned, and the rest of those on board were saved when the steamer reached the shore. There those still on board leapt for their lives, the John Jay burned to the waterline. “We had scarcely reached shore,” on man reported, “when the baggage which had been rescued from the wreck was seized upon by a gang of harpies, who took articles of apparel which happened to suit their fancy, and appropriated them without ceremony to their own uses.” The crew and passengers made their way to the nearby home of a man named Garfield who supplied them with whatever they needed as the dead were brought in and laid out. A survivor wrote bitterly later, “In my judgment, the cause of the disaster is to be attributed to the miserable inefficiency of persons in charge of the steamer, and the loss of life is chargeable to the neglect of the owners of the line, in failing to provide the appliances which accidents may render indispensable to the salvation of life.”

The following week someone wrote to the New York Times from Lake George to say that “the number of visitors here is not great. The travel in this direction has fallen off some seventy or eighty percent, since the burning of the steamer John Jay.”

Until today, the lamentable distinction of the greatest tragedy on Lake George (and the Adirondacks in general) belonged to a similar sized steam powered boat, the Rachel.

On the night of August 3, 1893 the steamer Rachel was chartered by more than twenty guests of the Fourteen Mile Island Hotel to take them to a dance at the Hundred Island House. The Rachel was owned by the Pearl Point Hotel but the usual captain, a man named Barber fell ill and went home early leaving the boat in the hands of a less experienced pilot, Claude Granger. The boat arrived safely at Fourteen Mile Island Hotel and with the passengers loaded, twenty-nine in all, left the dock at 9 pm. There was little or no moon as the boat neared Hundred Island House. The passengers on the deck were laughing and some ladies singing as Granger steered unknowingly out of the channel and struck an old dock south of the hotel tearing a large hole in the side of the boat below the water line. Some of the passengers were caught on the shade deck and died quickly as the boat listed and almost immediately sank. With only her smokestack left above water, a number of men from shore had rowed boats from the two nearby hotels to the scene to rescue the survivors. A young man named Benedict, an excellent swimmer, dove for his sister but couldn’t find her. Nineteen-year-old Frank Mitchell, of Burlington, drowned while trying to save his mother who also drowned. Eight other women (some from Warrensburg, Troy, Hoboken, and Brooklyn) drowned.

That night, nine bodies were recovered, three more were found later. The New York Times reported that “one result of this accident is to show how necessary is the legislation which was attempted a few winters ago by gentlemen interested in Lake George navigation, who attempted to have a law passed that would prohibit pilots or engineers from having charge of steamboats on Lake George unless they could pass an examination before a board of experts; also to have boilers tested regularly.”

While the record of the most deaths on Lake George in a single incident belongs to the Rachel, the Sagamore holds another record. At 224 feet and able to carry 1,500 passengers, the Sagamore was largest of the steamboats plying the lake for the Champlain Transportation Company – it also has the dubious record for groundings and collisions. The Sagamore story starts oddly enough, in a rescue attempt. On October 23, 1909 the steamer Mohican ran aground at Hulett’s Landing, on the west side of Lake George north of Black Mountain point. It was late in the season, in fact the Mohican was the only boat running the lake, so the Sagamore was brought from her winter quarters and manned by a crew from the shipyards at Burlington. She arrived at the scene at mid day and lines were strung to the Mohican, but just as the steam was put on and the line went taunt, the ropes snapped and the Sagamore was driven aground too. The Horicon was then needed to drag both boats from the shoal. Three years later it was the Horicon again who came to the rescue when the Sagamore was run aground in the sands of Hague Bar during the night of August 11, 1912. The passengers got off safely by small boats, but Horicon broke its hawser lines and anchor chains trying to pull the Sagamore free the next day.

The Sagamore next got into trouble on July 6, 1920. Maude and Florence Leavey of Hudson Falls were in a row boat in Kaatskill Bay with two friends Mrs. Alexander Duflow and Mrs. Edward Mullowney, both of Brooklyn. Somehow they found themselves in the path of the Sagamore and with the Leaveys at the oars, rowed for their lives, just barely missing being hit by the ship’s bow. They didn’t get past the paddlewheel however, and it smashed the boat to bits and threw the women into the water. Duflow and Mullownewy couldn’t swim and drowned almost immediately. The Leavey sisters kept themselves afloat and were rescued, frightened and exhausted, by several men in rowboats who had seen the accident from the shore at Cleverdale.


Suggested Reading

Sails and Steam in the Mountains: A Maritime and Military History of Lake George and Lake Champlain

Narrative of Ethan Allen



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