New Jersey's 'Bermuda Triangle' refuses to give up its dead

New Jersey's 'Bermuda Triangle' refuses to give up its dead

Written by WAYNE PARRY

Thursday, 09 March 2006

CLINTON, N.J. (AP) _ Authorities call it ``New Jersey's Bermuda Triangle,'' a watery place where people disappear, never to be seen again.

The description held true Wednesday after a 4 1/2-hour search of the sprawling Round Valley Reservoir failed to turn up any trace of six missing boaters and fishermen, some of whom were last seen in 1973.

"It would be nice to bring some closure, not only to our open cases but to the families involved,'' state police Detective Sgt. Jim Price said before the search began. All six men are presumed drowned.

Weather and water conditions at the reservoir were ideal this week for an expanded search: Because of infrequent snow this winter, the water level is 8 feet lower than normal, exposing an additional 30 to 90 feet of shoreline that is normally submerged.

A team of 30 state police, FBI and Bergen County Sheriff's officers fanned out on foot and in boats across the 180-foot-deep reservoir, looking for skeletal remains, clothing or other signs of the missing victims, all of whom are presumed drowned.

"It's like looking for a needle in a haystack,'' Price said afterward.

Since 1971, 25 people have drowned at the reservoir, said Lt. Jim McCormick, supervisor of the state police's missing persons unit.

The oldest unsolved case dates to May 4, 1973, when Thomas Trimblett, 27, of North Arlington, and Christopher Zajaczkowski of Jersey City, whose age was unknown, were fishing on the reservoir from a 12-foot aluminum boat that was later found capsized. A broken fishing pole and reel were found with the boat and two yellow life jackets and a wooden oar were found nearby.

On March 15, 1977, Craig Stier, 18, and Andrew Fasanella, 20, both of Trenton, launched a canoe from a reservoir boat ramp and were last seen paddling along the north shoreline. Four days later, their canoe was found washed ashore along with some camping gear.

On March 18, 1989, John Kubu, 37, of Rahway, and Albert Lawson, whose age and hometown were not available, failed to return from a fishing trip on the reservoir. Their 13-foot aluminum boat and various personal items were later found on the shoreline. Lawson's body was found that October; Kubu's body has not been found.

On Oct. 22, 1993, Jeffrey Moore, 27, of Ringwood, was fishing in a canoe with a friend when their vessel ran into trouble. The friend was rescued by a passing boater, who told authorities Moore drowned after the canoe took on water. Items from the boat were recovered on the shoreline.

Two search teams on Wednesday split up and fanned out to the north and south, finding 24 small bones or bone fragments and marking the location of each with a small orange flag.

The bones were examined by Donna Fontana, a forensic anthropologist with the state police, who was able to determine that each had come from an animal.

A ripped and tattered green and white baseball cap that was found wrapped around a tree branch was too damaged to be of use in the investigation, even though Trooper Bernie Borrelli said a green and white ball cap with the letters ``WW'' on the front had been linked to one of the missing victims.

FBI Agent Mike Scimeca determined the hat was so thoroughly damaged by the water that no traces of DNA would be present that might help identify its owner.

On two boats, specially trained cadaver-sniffing dogs were brought in to sniff for the telltale gases that decaying bodies emit. The next step will be to search sections of the reservoir with a special underwater robotic camera, Price said. That search has not yet been scheduled. (external - login to view)
It's after reading things like that I don't like water! Heh.

I wonder what happened though; perhaps the boaters failed to comply with regulations in relation to mapping and recording the location or perhaps they incorrectly informed the appropriate authorities of their locations. They may have disappeared somewhere else entirely, but the authorities are working from an out-of-date or incorrect navigation record?

I dunno, just theorising.

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