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Responders unable to reach scene in time for rescue
Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 12/26/05
BY ALESHA WILLIAMS
STAFF WRITER

UPPER FREEHOLD — Emergency responders were unable to save a hunting dog from its death in Stone Tavern Lake on Saturday.

The 45-pound Brittany spaniel belonged to a hunter at Assunpink Wildlife Management Area, where the lake is located, according to State Police.

"The dog was helping him hunt, going after a bird," Trooper Eric Gumina said. "(The dog) followed the bird out onto the ice. The middle of the lake was thawed out about 20 feet in, and the dog fell in."

The hunter, a 35-year-old Jackson man, alerted State Police and Hope Fire Company of Allentown at 12:15 p.m. Hope firefighters were the first to the scene at 12:33 p.m.

By then, the dog already was floating on the surface of the water, Hope Fire Deputy Chief Don Swaysland said.

"The dog had been in the water at least 18 minutes," Swaysland said. "I'm sure he just got tired and hypothermic and probably passed away from hypothermia first rather than drowning."

State Trooper William Carvounis said the response was hindered because the caller was unsure of his own location. The lake is about a quarter-mile north from County Road 524, Carvounis said.

"We were all in a frantic rush going through Assunpink trying to find where they might have been," Carvounis said.

Carvounis also said responders need to have a better working knowledge of the refuge, which is popular for pheasant hunting.

"We're pretty good with knowing the area, but there's a lot of little dirt trails and things, and we don't know where they go," Carvounis said.

He said he will be working with park rangers to draft clear maps to help emergency responders navigate the site.

"(The troopers who responded) are all dog owners so I think it's more of an emotional loss," Carvounis said. "The dog didn't know what it was doing, then it was scared trying to get back on land, so you feel pretty bad about it. Despite everything we see, this definitely hits home."

Alesha Williams: (732) 308-7756 or [email protected]
 

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My heart goes out to the guy. I almost lost my pointer pup the same way last year. I won't be going around the lakes until they freeze solid again.
 

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That's really sad, but it's something you have to learn and accept.
Everytime you let your dog loose in the woods, they're susceptible to injury and death.
Coonhounds, I believe, run the greatest risk. I know guys who have had their's shot, speared on a branch, hit by cars, etc.
What's even worst than having a dog die, is loosing one. I always used tracking collars, the quicker you can locate a dog, the better.
 

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That is a sad story. I really feel for the guy. The hunting season is only 3 months out of the year and the rest of the year they are family dogs. Dogs put their all into pleasing us and expect nothing in return. This is truly a tragic incident.
 

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That's truly sad. Most dogs are usually treated as good if not better than all of the other family members. I'm sure that hunter will be depressed for some time.

David
 

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Man thats sad and that would end it for me.My heart goes out to that poor guy and the dog.I used to worry when I guned open ice with my Golden. She amased me so many times when she dove under water to retreive the birds that tried to drown them selves.This dog I have now is way to fragil to go out on ice.I would rather losse my life than this dog.
 

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:(
 

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Hi Guys,

Well it has been nearly a week and I can talk about it a bit now...Bear was my dog that died on Christmas eve. I am not looking to have an open discussion about this since it is still very hard but here are some thoughts from a man that lost his 9 year old best friend.

My brother and I were hunting some thick edge, the kind you can see only about 12 feet in front of you. Once I realized where the dog was I knew we were in trouble.

There was about 25 feet of ice seperating me and Bear. As I got out to about 15 feet I could hear the ice starting to crack under my weight. Had to go back.

I called 911 and gave directions to the folks. They did a great job but it was just too late by the time they came.

As Bear tried to claw his way back onto the ice I started to peel off my jacket & boots and started to get ready to go swimming. As I started out a "moment of clarity" hit me and the vision of my 4 year old son trying to figure out why dad died on Christmas eve popped in my head. Hardest decision I ever had to make. I turned back, there was no way to lift myself out of the water and the swim to the other side was around 200 yards in 45 degree water.

My final hope was for the rescue folks to show and I could jump in the water, push the dog out and let them come get me. Unfortunatly hypothermia set in too quick.

Boy this is still hard...I pray that no one ever has to experience this. My guilt is massive.
 
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