Montgomery County

Amsterdam teen’s body recovered from Mohawk River

The body of an Amsterdam teen was recovered from the Mohawk River on Wednesday and authorities say h

The body of an Amsterdam teen was recovered from the Mohawk River on Wednesday and authorities say his drowning Tuesday may have been partly due to a strong current and chilly water.

A team of more than 30 divers put into the water near Lock 11 at historic Guy Park Manor early Wednesday found the body of 19-year-old Clinton Street resident Eduardo Figueroa just after 11 a.m. He was found in about 20 feet of water, between the wall of the lock and Bronson Island, following a search hampered by limited visibility.

Amsterdam police spokesman Det. Lt. Kurt J. Conroy said divers endured a strong undercurrent and could see only about 2 feet in the 60-degree water.

Figueroa’s friends and family were distraught Wednesday, said family friend Yahaira Rivera of Forbes Street, who went to the search scene Wednesday morning in hopes of learning whether Figueroa was found.

“He was an easygoing kid,” Rivera said of the teen, who witnesses said went into the water fearing his 13-year-old brother was having trouble midway between the lock wall and Bronson Island.

“He was always cracking jokes, trying to make somebody smile and be happy.”

Rivera said she learned from family members that they hadn’t frequented the river at that location, but the group went on Memorial Day and again Tuesday to cool off.

“There’s nowhere else to go. They’re trying to beat the heat, and they’re going to go to the place closest to them,” Rivera said.

City resident Jonny Lugo said people have been going to the river there “for a long, long time.”

Some don’t use the entrance to Guy Park Manor, he said. There’s a visible path, beaten down by recurrent foot traffic, that leads from Route 5 into the eastern portion of the park. People use that to access the river, even through there is no beach there.

There’s no beach on the river in this location. Lugo said swimmers go to the easternmost part of the lock wall, jump in and then swim further east, exiting the river by scaling up the bushes, into the woods and back into the park.

“The cops can’t be here 24-7. They sneak over here and swim,” Lugo said.

He said firefighters open hydrants in New York City to help locals cool off, but there’s no such benefit in Amsterdam.

“This is all they’ve got, but this place is not safe to swim,” he said.

Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane in an email Wednesday said the city’s swimming pool, located at Veterans Park in the northern part of the city, doesn’t open until July 1.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to this family. They have suffered a crushing loss,” she said.

Conroy said the search effort was made easier because divers from several agencies were planning a training and practice exercise Wednesday in the Hudson River, but instead went to Amsterdam to assist in finding Figueroa.

A total of 33 divers were on the scene from the Amsterdam fire and police departments, New York and Vermont state police, and the St. Johnsville Fire Department’s SCUBA team. Boats were provided by New York State Police, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and the St. Johnsville Fire Department.

Amsterdam police Sgt. Carl Rust, who heads the city’s dive team, said divers encountered trees and other debris during the difficult search. The divers deployed buoys connected by ropes to perform a grid search of the river bottom, he said.

The close proximity to the outlet of the canal’s movable dams heightened the strength of the current, Rust said.

Conroy in a news release later Wednesday cautioned people about swimming in the Mohawk River.

“The river is not a safe place to swim due to unpredictable currents, cold water temperatures and distances to bodies of land that can be deceiving from the shorelines,” he said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 10 people die from unintentional drowning every day.

“Drowning ranks fifth among leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States,” the CDC website states.

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