Accident Database

Report ID# 25966

  • Flush Drowning
  • Does not Apply
  • Cold Water
  • Solo Paddling
  • High Water

Accident Description

RIFTON – State police divers on Friday pulled the body of a man from the Wallkill River who had been missing since February when he used a kayak and a rope, attempting to cross the river, police said.

State police at the Highland Barracks said David Vena, 49, of Rifton, was attempting to cross the Wallkill from a small island in the center of the river on Feb. 13, when he went under the water. The section of the Wallkill where Vena was found flows just west of the hamlet of Rifton.

Police said the kayak and some of Vena’s personal items were found near where he disappeared, but repeated searches failed to locate him. The state police Troop F Underwater Recovery Team and the state police Aviation Unit conducted numerous searches without success, police said.


Wallkill River search

for missing kayaker is halted

Daily Freeman, Kingston, NY


POSTED: 02/15/18 

RIFTON, N.Y.  The search for a missing kayaker was called off Thursday afternoon, two days after his one-person craft apparently overturned in the frigid rushing waters of the Wallkill River in this town of Esopus hamlet, state police said.

Trooper Steve Nevel said the missing person, a male, sometimes “hung out on the island” near where the kayak was found, but he would not release the person’s name or any other identifying information “per request of the family.” Nevel said he did not know why the kayaker was on the river the day of his disappearance.

The search began when the overturned craft was reported to Ulster 911 at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday, was called off about 8 p.m. Tuesday, resumed at 8 a.m. Wednesday and was called off again Wednesday evening, Nevel said. At a Thursday press conference at the Rifton Fire Department, state police Lt. Michael Sumnick said the search was halted again at 1 p.m. Thursday and would resume “when conditions improve and we can possibly put a diver in the river.”

Divers have not gone into the water during the search because of strong currents in the river. “At this point, we have done everything we can with an airboat and sonar ... due to the conditions,” Sumnick said. He said he did not know how deep the river is at the site where the kayak was found.

The lieutenant characterized the incident as a “boating accident” and said the effort to find the kayaker still is considered a rescue, rather than recovery, operation.

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