Friday, May 25, 2007 Brothers act fast to save 3 Scouts By Sarah Bradshaw
DOVER PLAINS - River currents can be very dangerous and can trap you against structures in the water. That was the lesson nature taught a group of Harlem Valley Boy Scouts during a recent canoe trip down the Ten Mile River. It was a lesson that could have ended tragically, had it not been for Anthony and Joey DiLaura. The two brothers rescued the three young Scouts who were trapped in the river and a woman who had tried to help.
On May 12, the two brothers, of Craig Lane in Dover Plains, were checking out a tree that had fallen over into the water, when they saw a canoe capsize. Nick Ortega, Chis O'dell and Thomas Marston tumbled into the water. "It was pretty scary," 20-year-old Anthony DiLaura said. "The canoe fell right on top of them." Amy Mehlrose, whose son was in another canoe, was standing on the riverbank in the yard of her friend when it happened. She saw the current drive the boys' canoe to the right side of the river, where it got hung up on brush. "They got pushed sideways into a tree that was down across the river," the Dover resident said. "They tried to paddle, but that rocked the boat. Water flowed in the canoe and flipped them." The three sixth-graders were wearing life jackets. But the water had their backs pinned up against the same tree that had snagged the canoe.
Mehlrose went in after them in her jeans and sneakers. "I took two steps into the river and reached for the first kid, but there was a ledge that dropped," she said. "I took a third step and went completely under the water. No life jacket." Anthony DiLaura heard people yelling for help. Wearing khaki shorts, he barreled into the water and swam to the tree. "I fell in and the current was so strong I thought I was going to get swept away," he said. "In those situations you can't panic or else you are going to be gone." He plucked the Scouts and Mehlrose out of the river one by one. His brother Joey, 29, served as an anchor on the shore, and helped pull them from the cold water.
"By far this was the scariest thing that has ever happened to me," Anthony DiLaura said. But the Scouts didn't seem to realize what had happened to them. "I think what was going through their head was, 'Did that really just happen?' " Mehlrose said. Startled or not, they were certainly not deterred. They got back in the canoe and finished the event, she said. The youngsters may not have realized the danger they were in, but Mehlrose did. "If no one was there to help, this could have been really bad," she said.
Cathy Lehman, a friend of the DiLaura family, described Anthony DiLaura as a hero. "He didn't even think twice about going in the river," she said. "That's how he is. He's a good kid." Mehlrose stressed the tree had fallen the day before the event, and that there was no way to predict what would occur. "It wasn't anyone's fault, it was the way the river changed. It was a lesson that just because the river is in your backyard doesn't mean that you know everything about it," she said.
Reach Sarah Bradshaw at email@example.com or 845-437-4811.