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Hurricane Irene Local Death Toll Rising

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The number of deaths related to Hurricane Irene continues to rise.

On Sunday, Whitemarsh Police and emergency responders discovered 64-year-old Patricia O’Neill’s vehicle in the Wissahickon Creek during the day while looking for victims stranded in flood waters (see related story).

Earlier that day, concerned family members of O’Neill, of East Norriton, alerted police department that she did not make it to work. According to authorities, O’Neill told her family she was heading to work at the Flourtown Shopping Center and left her apartment at about 2 a.m.

Also on Sunday, New Jersey State Police say a woman who called authorities for help from her car on a flooded road early Sunday morning in Salem County was found dead in the vehicle about eight hours later.

Sgt. Brian Polite says 20-year-old Celena Sylvestri from Quinton called for help about 1:40 a.m. morning, first to her boyfriend then 911, saying water was up to her neck in her Honda Accord.

Her car was submerged along Route 40 in Pilesgrove. Polite says her body was found about 9:30 a.m. about 150 feet off the road by state troopers.

State police say they went to look for her but couldn’t immediately find her in the dark.

And on Sunday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie mistakenly stated that a firefighter had died during an attempted water rescue (see related story).

39-year-old Michael Kenwood, an EMT with Princeton Fire Aid & Rescue Squad, was rescued from flood waters near Princeton. Kenwood was actually in critical condition until early Monday morning, when he unfortunately succumbed to injuries sustained during the ordeal.

On Monday, the bodies of two men were found along the coast in Ocean County, New Jersey.

Deputy Chief Michael Mohel, of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, said that 25-year-old Jorge Hernandez, of Point Pleasant Beach, was found around shortly before 11 a.m. on Monday in the Manasquan River inlet.

A second unidentified man was found in a nearby area in Point Pleasant Beach about 2 and a half hours later.

Mohel also said that officials have learned that Hernandez and another man had plans to go to the inlet early on Sunday, possibly to watch the storm’s approach.

That–along with the identity of the second body–is still under investigation.

Finally, on Monday, the bodies of two missing friends were discovered in Delaware.

Twenty-five-year-old Christopher Valentine, of Hockessin, and 25-year-old Jean Baptista, of Clark in NJ, were found dead after being declared missing by Valentine’s mother on Sunday afternoon (see related story).

On Monday, Delaware Governor Markell offered this statement:

“While we had hoped and prayed our state would get through this dangerous hurricane without the loss of life, we now know that is not the case. I offer my condolences to the families and friends of Christopher Valentine and Jean Baptista, as I know this will be a time of great difficulty for their families and those close to them. ”

The two men were last seen leaving a friend’s home in Hockessin around midnight on Sunday.

Reports of additional Hurricane Irene-related deaths and injuries are still incoming.

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