Drowning victim’s body found

By CRISTINE MEIXNER

Express Editor

SPECULATOR - The body of a young man who drowned in Lake Pleasant after his life jacket came off Saturday afternoon was found at 11:59 a.m. Tuesday in 39 feet of water.

Anthony Perez, 19, Bronx, was located by a State Police boat equipped with sonar, according to Sheriff Karl Abrams, and “a State Police diver went down and recovered the body.”

According to Abrams, based on a statement by the only witness, she and Perez took a two-person kayak out on the lake from Camp-of-the-Woods resort, where Perez had been on staff for six weeks. They planned to kayak to the island.

“He wanted to learn to swim,” Abrams said. “She was in the water first, demonstrating how to tread water.

“He got in wearing a lifejacket not properly attached by himself. It came off immediately.

“She tried to give him her lifejacket from the kayak, [which she was not wearing,] but he struggled and went under. I think he panicked.”

They were about half a mile from the shore at Camp-of-the-Woods, Abrams said.

CAMP STAFF

Both were both on staff at Camp-of-the-Woods.

“She was trying to get back into the kayak when a witness came to help and took her to Camp-of-the-Woods and called 9-1-1,” Abrams said. “A second jet-skier kept doing circles in the area but couldn’t find [Perez] and came in.”

A discrepancy between where the young woman said they were when her companion went under and where the two jet-skiers said they were meant a large area of the lake was searched.

Many boaters on the lake started searching immediately as word spread, Abrams says, and HCSO mounted a search soon after being notified at 3:32 p.m. Saturday.

FIRST RESPONSE

Two forest rangers responded with an airboat, Water Deputy Michael Tracy with his family’s pontoon boat and HCSO with two boats manned by Raquette Lake Water Deputy Corkey Risley and Deputy Corey Hutchins. They dragged the lake Saturday until dark.

The search resumed Sunday morning. “We have been doing grid searches,” Abrams explained. “With personal watercraft patrolling the perimeter to keep boaters away.”

Each morning Paul Beaudoin took his airplane up as soon as the fog lifted and, with Rick Wilt as spotter, flew above the area to see if they could spot the body from the air. Both are from Piseco.

CONTINUED MONDAY

Nineteen official vehicles lined South Shore Road at Cherry Beach Monday afternoon as the State Police boat and divers used “sophisticated hi-tech side-scanning sonar brought in from the Finger Lakes” to search, Abrams said.

The Sheriff’s Office used its own sonar Sunday. “The State Police’s is higher resolution,” Abrams said Monday, hopeful the better unit would do the trick. “They are looking for ‘hot points’ before putting divers back in the water.”

DIVERS AWAIT

A volunteer team from the St. Johnsville Fire Department’s Dive - Rescue - Scuba Special Operations unit was on shore waiting to be activated. A team member said this is not unusual, especially when such a large area has to be covered.

“We can’t just start diving and then be all tired out,” he explained.

Abrams said at 20 feet visibility is zero, so the sonar team was marking “anomalies” for divers to check out.

The State Police team left at 6 p.m. Monday but returned Tuesday morning.

CHECKING THE SHORE

Volunteers on personal watercraft and on foot - Mike Tracy and K.C. Morrison of Speculator and Craig Small of Piseco - checked the shoreline each morning at first light, Abrams said.

The subject’s family arrived Monday morning, according to Abrams. The young man was a student at a community college in the Troy area.

A Syracuse man drowned in the indoor swimming pool at Camp-of-the-Woods in September of 2002.

Lemar Spruance, 33, was swimming in the pool when he sank to the bottom. A non-swimming friend ran for help, but Spruance could not be saved.

Camp-of-the-Woods opened for the summer June 25. It is sold out this week with 825 guests.