August 4, 2011 —
SKINNERS FALLS, NY — The third person to drown in the Upper Delaware River in just over a week, and the fifth so far this season, was recovered by divers just before dusk on August 4.
Search and rescue crews located the body of 19-year-old Najee Powell from Ridgefield Park, NJ below the Skinners Falls Rapids where the young man had been swimming with a group of 11 friends between the ages of 17 and 21.
According to National Park Service Chief Ranger Joe Hinkes,the group attempted to swim across the river from the New York side. None were wearing lifejackets.
Powell was the last to cross and was unable to reach the shore safely. Two juvenile males attempted to rescue him, but were unsuccessful. "This could have resulted in multiple fatalities," said Hinkes, who stressed the importance of wearing lifejackets.
In his statement, one juvenile male attributed the cause of Powell's death to be peer pressure to join the others. The group was staying at the weekend home of a family member in Tyler Hill, PA.
Rescue units from both New York and Pennsylvania responded to the 911 calls made in Wayne and Sullivan counties. The Sullivan County Dive Team made the recovery at 8:15 p.m. in approximately ten feet of water. River conditions are considered to be normal for this time of year.
"We continue to look for ways to get the safety message out in order to avoid these senseless tragedies," said Hinkes. "The river can be deceiving. It might look peaceful, but is actually quite powerful. Please don't try to swim across, and always wear a lifejacket."