Accident Database

Report ID# 3831

  • Caught in Low Head Dam Hydraulic
  • Does not Apply
  • Other

Accident Description

One of two men pulled from Lehigh River pronounced dead, authorities say

By Lynn Ondrusek Lehigh Valley Live

May 21, 2014

UPDATE: Lehigh River drowning victim identified as Forks Township man, 26 One of two men pulled this afternoon from the Lehigh River near a dangerous dam was pronounced dead, Easton police said. Authorities identified the men initially only as being from the Easton area. Their kayaks were also recovered from the river after a rescue effort began unfolding at 1:38 p.m. near the Chain Dam in Easton's Hugh Moore Park, according to the Easton Fire Department.

Hugh Moore Park employees said they helped rescue the second man from the river near the Locktender's House in the park, near the dam that spans the width of the waterway. He was transported to St. Luke's Hospital in Bethlehem Township, Pa., city fire Capt. Henry Hennings said. "We could tell there was nothing we could do for the first one but we managed to get the second one," said park manager Chris Szarko, who performed CPR and helped revive the man. Authorities pulled the other boater from the river, and Hennings said he was unresponsive. That boater, who appeared to be in his 20s, was pulled from the river just east of the 25th Street bridge in the city's Hugh Moore Park and transported toEaston Hospital.

Easton police said one of the two men involved was taken to a local hospital and pronounced dead and that the Northampton County Coroner's Office was notified. The death did not immediately appear suspicious, police said. Hennings said that in addition to two kayaks, authorities recovered fishing poles, as well. One man was wearing safety gear, while the other was not, he said. Hennings said he did not know the condition of the man who was rescued.

Responders had to try to line up their boat with the victim later pronounced dead to try to rescue him, but there was no easy way to grab a hold of the victim. "When they are unresponsive, they are going with the current," Hennings said. Hennings said the water level, which is about 10 feet deep, a temperature of about 59 degrees and turbidity also made the rescue difficult.

Szarko, the park manager, said he saw the man whom he would help rescue on a wall near the Locktender's House, with a rope trying to retrieve something unseen from the river. Szarko said he eventually realized there was someone caught in the boil at the base of the dam, and the man from atop the wall soon jumped into his kayak to try to help the other person even though park workers urged him not to go in. The park workers urged the man not to go in the river near the dam, and he quickly became caught in the boil, as well. "He ended up going upside-down in his kayak and round and round," Szarko said. The boil soon spat out both men downstream away from the roiling water, Szarko said. He, along with park employees Steven Capwell and Laura Hale, pulled the rescuer from the boil, and Szarko administered CPR and was able to revive him.

The boater who first became trapped floated downstream and was taken out of the water by authorities responding in their own watercraft. "His body went down the river so fast, we couldn't get it," Capwell said. Dangerous dam The second man was in the water four to five minutes before workers saw both men emerge from the roiling water. Szarko said the river is always too fast in the area near the dam. "Regardless of how high the river is, you should never be in this area," he said. He said he has never heard of people purposely going over the dam, but they have tried foolish things like walking across the dam. He said he wasn't shaken up from the incident but feels sorry for the other man.

The Chain Dam runs the width of the Lehigh River between Palmer Township's Riverview Park and Easton's Hugh Moore Park. It is of an Ogee-type dam construction, 20 feet in height and 700 feet wide. Signs and buoys are used to designate exclusion zones around the dam, extending 200 feet upstream and 100 feet downstream. Source: Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission,

Lehigh River drowning victim identified as Forks Township man, 26

By Kurt Bresswein | The Express-Times

May 21, 2014

Hugh Moore Park workers describe coming to the aid of kayakers caught in the boil of the base of the Chain Dam on the Lehigh River in Easton on May 21, 2014. A Forks Township man drowned after his kayak went over a Lehigh River dam this afternoon in the Easton area, Northampton County Coroner Zachary Lysek said tonight. Lysek identified the victim as 26-year-old Jeremy Deemer, of Newlins Mill Road East. He was taken to Easton Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, after the water rescue effort began at 1:38 this afternoon. The cause was drowning, said Lysek, who ruled the death accidental.

Deemer and a second man, whose identity has not been released by authorities, were kayaking in the river when Deemer went over the Chain Dam, between Palmer Township's Riverview Park and Easton's Hugh Moore Park, authorities said. Hugh Moore Park employees helped pull the second man from the river after he went in near the dam in an attempt to help his friend. The second boater's kayak also overturned in the hydraulics of the dam, the workers said, and he had to be revived. That second boater was taken to a St. Luke's University Health Network facility, Lysek said. His condition was unavailable tonight.


Witnesses tell Channel 69 News that two males were kayaking near the dam. As they approached the dam, one of them got out and carried his kayak around and below the dam. The other male either tried to go over the dam or got too close and was pulled over. Nearby workers heard someone yelling for help. They saw one kayaker trying to throw a rope the one who was in trouble. When the kayaker couldn’t reach his companion, he got back in his kayak and tried to go back upstream to get to him, but also got caught up in the flow over the dam. He was tossed around for several minutes before he came free of the dam current and was rescued by the workers who heard him yelling.

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