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River drownings take two lives

Idyllic surroundings give false sense of safety


RIVER VALLEY — National Park Service rangers, livery officials and campground owners are at a loss as to how to prevent people from entering the river without life jackets. While there is a law for anyone 12 years or younger to wear a life jacket whether in a boat or swimming, those over 12 are not required by law to wear one.

Two drownings over the July 4th weekend occurred at two separate occasions in the Upper Delaware River, one in the Minisink Ford, NY area and the other at Skinners Falls in Cochecton, NY. Both were swimming accidents.

On the afternoon of the 4th, Ryan Nibar, 27, from Hollis, Queens was swimming in a section of the river that became too deep for him while the current took him further out in the river. Nibar was camping at the Kittattiny Campground.

Earlier in the morning, Pablo Ferreira, 17, of Mount Vernon, NY drowned near Skinners Falls while trying to cross the river. He hit a deep spot and the current pushed him along.

His mother, who spoke only Spanish, spotted him. His body was recovered a short distance downstream where several people administered CPR with no success.

There were no signs that drugs, alcohol or foul play contributed to either death, according to law enforcement officials.

The total number of river drownings this year is five.

In April, three fishermen were on the river in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Park area when their boat capsized. Two of them drowned, while the third man survived and reported the incident.

Another drowning occurred in the same area on June 8, when a 34-year-old New Jersey man was attempting to cross the river with a group at Lebar Island, a mile north of the Delaware Water Gap.

“It is extremely important that people who are on, in or along the river wear a personal floatation device,” said Al Henry, NPS chief ranger. “Swimming in the river is not like swimming in a pool.”

Henry said that there was no truth to the belief that the river sucks you under. “It’s the current that pulls you,” he said. “The water is moving.”

Liveries and campgrounds routinely warn people that the river is dangerous and that life jackets should be worn, he said. The park service has posted signs in both English and Spanish to alert people to the dangers of the current.

“You can put up all the signs you want and it still won’t stop people. You can’t make people wear life jackets if they don’t want to,” said Henry.

TRR photo by Fritz Mayer
Signs such as these, located at all state access areas along the Upper Delaware River, warn visitors about the dangers of the river and urge them to wear life jackets at all times. (Click for larger version)