'It's just another day for us'

River rescues—successful and unsuccessful—in the Upper Delaware region

By LIAM MAYO
Posted 7/28/21

SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — In the past month, fire departments and law enforcement agencies in Sullivan County have been called for far too many drownings in the Upper Delaware region.

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'It's just another day for us'

River rescues—successful and unsuccessful—in the Upper Delaware region

Posted

SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — In the past month, fire departments and law enforcement agencies in Sullivan County have been called for far too many drownings in the Upper Delaware region.

This past Saturday, July 24, another victim was added to the growing total.  At 4:00 p.m. New York State Police Wurtsboro along with the members of the Fallsburg Police responded to the area of the bridge crossing near Old Falls Road in the Town of Fallsburg for a report of a drowning, according to a press release from New York State Police Troop F.

Initial investigation revealed that Rene Flores, 46, from the Town of Fallsburg jumped from a rock ledge into the river and began to struggle to swim. Flores was able to make it to a rock but was unable to pull himself up due to the steepness of the rock and the current. A friend of his jumped in and attempted to assist him but lost sight of Flores as he was swept underwater by the current.

Flore’s body was recovered by the Sullivan County Dive Team.

“We extend our deepest sympathies to the family of the drowning victim and implore our neighbors, again, not to swim in Old Falls,” stated a post on the Town of Fallsburg Facebook page. “It is dangerous... It is prohibited... and yesterday, it was tragic. Also, a very special thank you to the first responders, firefighters, police agencies and volunteers responded... placing themselves in danger to try and save the victim.”

While all too often the efforts of firefighters and first responders are in vain, there are, as well, stories of success, stories of being in the right place at the right time and making a miracle happen.

Two such stories happened earlier in the week along the Delaware River.

On Sunday, July 18, the Lumberland Fire Department airboat was dispatched to assist members of the Sparrowbush Fire Department and the Matamoras Fire Department in a water rescue for stranded boaters. These boaters were wearing life jackets at the time, and first responders were able to bring them to safety. 

The next day, July 19, two adults and a child were playing in their canoe in an eddy behind their house. The canoe got caught by the current and made its way out to the river with all three inside; while the child had a life jacket on, the two adults did not.

The adults first tried to paddle the canoe back upstream. When that proved unsuccessful, one of them threw the onboard anchor out, steadying the canoe in the center of the river.

That was the situation when first responders found them, said Lumberland Fire Department Assistant Chief Eric Robles. He responded to the scene, piloting Lumberland’s airboat alongside Dave Venturini, who responded as mutual aid to the Narrowsburg Volunteer Fire Department. Members of the Lava fire department and other members of the Lumberland fire department also joined in rescue efforts.

Robles piloted the airboat alongside the canoe, and the child was passed between the boats. Venturini threw life jackets to the stranded adults and assisted first one then the other across.

“It’s just another day for us, you know? That’s just what we signed up for,” said Robles, echoing comments he’d made when asked, some weeks earlier, about an incident of drowning.

Even so, he added, “It was really nice to actually have a good outcome on this one.”

Edit: This story has been updated as of 2 PM on July 29,  correcting this article's description of the July 19th incident to "rescue efforts" from "recovery efforts."

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