Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Body of Missing Teen Recovered from Delaware River

The body of Jose Madera-Martinez, 19, was recovered near Kittatinny Point on the Delaware River. Photo by Joe Phalon, 7/2023.

The body of a teen who had been reported missing while swimming in the Delaware River was recovered July 13, four days after he was last seen struggling in the water.

The body of Jose Madera-Martinez, 19, of Paterson, New Jersey, was recovered at around 11:15 Sunday morning the Delaware River near Kittatinny Point within Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, according to National Park Service Police.

Madera-Martinez’ body was found by National Park Service search crews 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. the previous Thursday.

Madera-Martinez, a student at Fairleigh Dickinson University, was attempting to swim from the New Jersey side of the river at Karamac, in Hardwick Township, to the bridge abutments in the middle of the river, police said.

Two other swimmers were rescued from one of the abutments by Portland, Pennsylvania, firefighters 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, police said. The Karamac area is located about a mile north of Interstate 80 on Old Mine Road. The bridge abutments—the remains of a dismantled railroad trestle—have long been a popular point of interest to people on the river.

The search was complicated by severe thunderstorms that swept through the area Saturday evening and Sunday morning.

“Our deepest sympathies go out to the family and friends of this young man following this tragic incident,” said Park Ranger Dustin Gunderson, team leader of the Search and Rescue Team. “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 quicky 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 the search operations, crews made two unrelated 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,” a Park Service spokesperson said. “Wearing a properly fitted and fastened life jacket is the number one thing that one can do to stay safe around the river.”

Joe Phalon
Joe Phalon, Contributing Writer
Contributing Writer

Joe was lured out of retirement by the opportunity to be a part of the Ridge View Echo. During a decades-long career in publishing and journalism, he has covered government on many levels from local school boards to the United States Supreme Court.

Along the way, Joe has worked at American Lawyer Magazine, The National Law Journal and The Record among other publications, and as the Press Officer of Columbia Law School. His work has been recognized with several first place awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the New Jersey Press Association.

Being part of the Ridge View Echo brings Joe back to his roots and the kind of news coverage he loves: Telling the stories of people and local communities as well as keeping an eye on how their money is spent by their government officials.

Joe lives in Blairstown with his wife Rose, the founder of Quilting for a Cause, and their two wiener dogs. He is an artist in his spare time.