Drown­ing at the Rock

26-year-old man drowns in Schuylkill River near popular swim­ming area

The Kutztown Area Patriot - - FRONT PAGE - By Lisa Mitchell lmitchell@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @ham­bur­gitem on Twit­ter

Es­sam Saba, 26, Al­len­town, drowned at the Rock on July 24.

“A 26-year-old did not make it across. Four guys real­ized he was un­der and tried to get him up. But it was too late. CPR was ad­min­is­tered on site by by­standers,” re­ported Ham­burg pho­tog­ra­pher Neven Dries after re­turn­ing from the scene. “After some­thing like this hap­pened, all th­ese peo­ple stayed and kept swim­ming and jump­ing like noth­ing hap­pened. I ar­rived after the man had been taken away by emer­gency crews.”

Ac­cord­ing to state po­lice, Saba at­tempted to swim across the Schuylkill River by en­ter­ing the wa­ter at a nearby beach. As he at­tempted to swim across, he be­gan to strug­gle and ul­ti­mately drowned. Emer­gency crews re­sponded to the call at 1:50 p.m. As­sist­ing at the scene were Tilden Twp. Po­lice, Schuylkill Haven State Po­lice, Ham­burg and Shoe­mak­ersville Fire de­part­ments, Schuylkill County Dive Team, and North­ern Berks Fire Po­lice. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion is on­go­ing. Ac­cord­ing to Berks County Chief Deputy Coro­ner Frank Pi­lat, Saba was pro­nounced dead at 2:56 p.m. at Penn State Health St. Joseph Hos­pi­tal. Pi­lat said cause

of death ap­pears to be an ac­ci­den­tal drown­ing but they are hold­ing off on a cause of death and man­ner of death un­til tox­i­col­ogy re­sults are re­ceived and the fi­nal au­topsy re­sults are re­ceived, which could take a few weeks.

“Also, I was told by fire po­lice on the scene, an­other lady hit her head after jump­ing off the dam. She was pulled out and sur­vived. She re­fused treat­ment,” re­ported Dries.

Dries said there were cars block­ing en­try for emer­gency crews.

“They could not get back to the last park­ing area. There was nowhere to get the trucks back.”

Swim­ming and jump­ing con­tin­ued.

“Emer­gency crews tried to dis­perse ev­ery­one at the scene. Most left for a bit then came back by the car­loads as po­lice and emer­gency crews were gone,” said Dries.

Route 61 and Port Clin­ton Av­enue were blocked by traf­fic as the crowds left the area but many still re­mained to swim and jump off the Rock.

Tilden Town­ship Po­lice Chief Wil­liam J. McEll­roy III spoke about some of the safety con­cerns re­gard­ing swim­ming and jump­ing at the Rock and Kernsville Dam and re­sponded to some of the com­ments made on so­cial me­dia.

“We want peo­ple to be safe. We don’t want things like this hap­pen­ing,” said McEll­roy. “Safety is def­i­nitely a top con­cern. Peo­ple need to know that it’s swim at your own risk. They need to be aware of the strong cur­rent there. If they are not a com­pe­tent swim­mer they should not go into the wa­ter.”

Re­gard­ing al­co­holic con­sump­tion, McEll­roy said that there is no law pro­hibit­ing al­co­hol at the Kernsville Dam Recre­ation Area.

“It is ob­vi­ously un­safe to con­sume al­co­hol and then go swim­ming,” said McEll­roy.

Re­gard­ing shut­ting down ac­cess to the Rock, McEll­roy ex­plained that the De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion owns the Kernsville Dam Recre­ation Area which in­cludes the Rock. The prop­erty is open to the public. No tres­pass­ing signs are not posted.

“DEP needs to step up and start tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for their prop­erty; oth­er­wise we’re not go­ing to come to a pos­i­tive so­lu­tion,” said McEll­roy. “We as a po­lice de­part­ment are just as frus­trated. We have no au­thor­ity to shut it down.”

Rep. Jerry Knowles has or­ga­nized a meet­ing to dis­cuss the Rock with Tilden Town­ship of­fi­cials, po­lice, the Fish and Boat Com­mis­sion and the Blue Moun­tain Wildlife Inc. The meet­ing, to be held on July 29 at 10:30 a.m. at the Tilden Town­ship Build­ing, is closed to the public.

Com­ments on Face­book in­cluded blow­ing up the rock and ask­ing why the meet­ing is closed to the public.

Ed­die Miller posted, “Well my phi­los­o­phy on it as a lo­cal is out of the hun­dreds of peo­ple that visit the Rock daily, and the thou­sands that visit it ev­ery sum­mer. For one or two peo­ple who drown there ev­ery year, it should be blown up. I mean blow up cars too while your at it. Look how many peo­ple get killed in them ev­ery year. It’s public land, they can’t stop peo­ple from go­ing in there. You’re al­ways go­ing to have bad peo­ple in the group who ruin it for ev­ery­one. But don’t take away the spot for the peo­ple that grew up in Ham­burg and have been go­ing there for years, who re­spect the prop­erty.”

An­gela Rother­mel posted, “This is ab­so­lutely ridicu­lous. I read there were over 500 peo­ple up there to­day when this hap­pened. This is not a tourist at­trac­tion. It’s sad some­thing so beau­ti­ful is go­ing to be taken away from us who grew up with it. Be­cause other peo­ple don’t know how to re­spect “THE ROCK”.”

Daniel Wert posted: “Dad drove by there at 1ish and said close to 1,000 peo­ple and cars block­ing traf­fic. Use to be only a few peo­ple there, now ev­ery­one from ev­ery­where goes. Traf­fic is a haz­ard, glass on ground is a haz­ard, and that’s be­fore you even get to the Rock it­self which is a haz­ard.”

Chris Gor­don posted, “Time to blow the rock up. Sit­u­a­tion is out of con­trol. Dan­ger­ous to drive in the area, dan­ger­ous for first re­spon­ders try­ing to help, dan­ger­ous for the id­iots div­ing off the Rock. How many peo­ple have to die?”

PHO­TOS BY NEVEN DRIES - DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Jumpers on Sun­day af­ter­noon at the Rock on the Schuylkill River in Tilden Town­ship.

Jump­ing off the Rock into the Schuylkill River in Tilden Town­ship on Sun­day.

Fire po­lice were on the scene, re­spond­ing to a woman who hit her head after jump­ing off the dam. She was pulled out and sur­vived. She re­fused treat­ment.

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