By Kelly Hessedal, Molly Daly, Oren Liebermann
TINICUM TWP. (CBS) — The search for a man who disappeared while tubing on the Delaware River in Tinicum Township, Bucks County turned into a recovery effort Sunday afternoon.
Authorities say it was around 4:45 p.m. Saturday when the victim, identified as 30-year-old Anthony Del Prete of Herndon, VA, slipped under water and disappeared just ten feet from the shore in the area of Bucks County River Country, a water sports recreation center. A friend reportedly jumped into the water to try to save him but was unsuccessful.
“We were having a great day together and everything flipped upside down,” one of the missing tuber’s friends said. “He was an athletic guy, played ball, knew how to swim and we had done six-and-a-half miles of a trip together and we were on the last leg.”
Crews searched from the air and on the ground for about three-and-a-half hours Saturday night before suspending the search and resuming early Sunday morning. But conditions in the water made things difficult.
“The river actually came up overnight, and so the conditions were near zero visibility,” says Point Pleasant Fire Chief Scott Fleischer. “A lot of mud, a lot of debris floating down from all the heavy rain up north the last few days, and some strong current.”
Fleischer says ten jurisdictions participated in the effort, before turning it over to an all volunteer non-profit group that specializes in the recovery of drowning victims.
“The emergency rescue portion of the operation has ceased, and has now been turned over to New Jersey,” he says. “The Garden State Underwater Recovery Unit is out there with a few boats and some divers.”
The chief says that the missing man and his friends were tubing on their own, and not with one of the companies that specialize in the pasttime, which require that customers wear life jackets.
“We don’t know if this gentleman had a life jacket on or not,” Fleisher says, “but we certainly say you should have life jackets on all the time, but certainly in these kind of conditions.”
Fleischer says it’s a big mistake not to understand and respect the power of the river.