Drowning victim found

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  • The Upper Delaware River looking upstream from Pond Eddy, N.Y. (Photo: National Park Service: nps.gov)



BARRYVILLE — Searchers on Friday found a 22-year-old drowning victim in Pond Eddy, about five miles downstream from the spot where on May 25 his friends last saw him.

Chief Ranger Joe Hinkes released the name of Uyobong Ukonne, saying his next of kin in Nigeria have now been contacted.

Ukonne, a college student living in Jersey City, N.J., was one of four friends who came to the Upper Delaware for a rafting trip. Ukonne took off his life jacket before jumping into the water for a swim and was immediately sucked underwater.

Hinkes said two anglers on the riverbank found Ukonne on Friday, May 30, and notified the authorities to recover the body.

The accident happened in front of the NPS's riverfront station in Barryville. Even though the National Park Service (NPS) rescue team was on the scene in minutes, divers weren't able to find the man in many days of searching. Other responders who helped in the search include the Sullivan County dive team and fire departments and dive teams from Sparrowbush, Port Jervis, Highland Lake, Huguenot, Yulan, Lumberland, and Matamoras.

NPS Information Officer Ingrid Peterec said the river was running very fast on May 25, about 4,140 cubic feet per second.

Hinkes, who earlier this year was selected to be a member of the Office of Public Risk Management's Drowning Prevention Board, said many visitors remain unaware of just how dangerous the river can be. It may appear placid on the surface, but dangerous currents can pull a person under in seconds.

Hinkes said he doesn't know of any case where a person wearing a lifejacket drowned in the Upper Delaware. He said all people on the river — whether boating, swimming, fishing, or wading — should wear a Coast Guard-approved personal flotation jacket at all times.

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