Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area Superintendent John J. Donahue sadly announced that a 51 year old Brooklyn man drowned in the Delaware River late Saturday afternoon near Kittatinny Point on the New Jersey side of the park. This is the second drowning in the Delaware River within the recreation area in 12 days.
He was identified as Juan Roberto Salomon Delacruz.
At 4:19 p.m., the National Park Service’s 24-hour Communications Center received a report of a missing person who had last been seen by family members in the Kittatinny Point area approximately 90 minutes earlier. Park rangers and troopers from the New Jersey State Police responded and a search of the grounds ensued. NPS boat operators began a search of the area from the river at 5:25 and located the victim’s body five minutes later, approximately 20 yards from the NJ shore in 9 to 12 feet of water. NPS divers recovered the body at 5:54 and the victim was pronounced dead at the scene by the Morris County Medical Examiner. Delacruz had been swimming and picnicking with family members at the site. He was not wearing a lifejacket at the time of his death.
The recent heat wave has brought increased numbers of visitors to the park seeking to cool off on or near the water. The river appears deceptively calm, but has strong currents, sharp drop-offs, underwater obstacles, and a slippery, uneven bottom. The depth of the river can change suddenly and often unexpectedly.
Superintendent Donahue explained, “A person might be wading just a few feet off shore and be in up to their knees. They take two more steps forward, or slip on a rock, and they are in over their head in the current. Wearing a properly-fitted lifejacket, or Personal Flotation Device (PFD), is the single most important thing a person can do to protect themselves and their loved ones when cooling off on or near the river.”
The recreation area offers life-guarded swimming areas at Turtle Beach in NJ and at Smithfield and Milford Beaches in PA. Other tips: Swim only in lifeguarded beaches. Do not swim alone, and never try to swim or wade across the river.