The body of Jose Madera Martinez, 19, of Paterson, New Jersey, was recovered at around Late Sunday morning, July 16, from the waters of the Delaware River near Kittatinny Point within Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area by National Park Service search crews.
Sunday marked the third full day of the search.
Madera Martinez was found in approximately 12 feet of water, mid-channel, about a mile downstream from where he was last seen struggling in the current around 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 13. He was attempting to swim from the New Jersey shoreline at Karamac to the bridge abutments in the middle of the river. Two other swimmers were rescued from one of the abutments and another was able to swim to shore. The current is particularly strong and swift in this area. None of the swimmers were wearing a lifejacket.
The Karamac area is located about a mile north of Interstate 80 on Old Mine Road.
“Our deepest sympathies go out to the family and friends of this young man following this tragic incident,” U.S. Park Ranger and Search and Rescue Team leader Dustin Gunderson said in the press release announcing the recovery. “While our crews always hold out hope for a rescue during these incidents, it is also important to search teams to be able to bring the bodies of deceased loved ones back to their families as quickly as possible. We are glad that we could do that today.”
Gunderson and other park rangers encourage all river users to always wear a properly fitted and fastened, U.S. Coast Guard-approved lifejacket when recreating on or in the Delaware River - even swimmers, which may seem counter-intuitive to many people.
Most drownings in the park have occurred when people were swimming and no drownings have occurred when a properly fitted and fastened lifejacket was worn. Gunderson added that during yesterday’s search operations, crews made two water rescues within the search area.
The Delaware River may look calm in many areas but under the surface there are strong currents, steep drop-offs, sudden changes in depth, and underwater obstacles and hazards. Wearing a properly fitted and fastened life jacket is the number one thing that one can do to stay safe around the river.
None of the 104 drowning victims were wearing a properly fitted and fastened lifejacket.
The search effort
Search efforts were dependent on weather conditions. This weekend, the river level was just above eight feet at the Montague gauge, meaning the river is currently running two-three feet higher than normal for this time of year. (Normal levels are between five-six feet in summer. This is not the same as river depth which ranges from a foot deep to 50 feet deep within the five-mile-long search area.)
At this river level, it is unsafe for dive teams to enter the water, the National Park Service said. At eight feet, the current is moving more swiftly, visibility is greatly reduced and areas of shoreline become inundated., making search efforts more challenging.
Within that a five-mile-long stretch of river, crews covered about 150 miles of search area, using several boats and employing the use of side scan sonar to locate anomalies under the water that could be the missing swimmer.