GREAT SACANDAGA LAKE – A state trooper from Schenectady County with nearly 20 years of experience in law enforcement died Sunday while assigned to work on Great Sacandaga Lake, state police said.
The circumstances surrounding the death of Trooper James J. Monda, however, remained under investigation Monday as state police said he was assigned to work the boat-based marine detail at the lake, but not for training or dive training.
Monda, 45, died after a dive near a boat dock on the lake in Fulton County. He dove in the water shortly after 4 p.m. Sunday using state police gear while another trooper, a member of the agency’s dive team was present, state police Superintendent Kevin P. Bruen told reporters at a press conference Monday.
“During a short dive, Trooper Monda did not resurface,” Bruen said. “The other trooper, who is a member of our underwater recovery team, or dive team, jumped in and located Trooper Monda at the bottom of the lake in approximately nine feet of water.”
The fellow trooper then got Monda to shore and started CPR immediately.
Other troopers and EMS soon arrived. Monda was taken to Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville, where he was pronounced dead at about 6 p.m., Bruen said.
An autopsy revealed Monda died of accidental drowning and found no other possible medical emergency led to his death, Bruen said.
Monda was a member of the boat-based marine detail, but not a member of the dive team, Bruen said, and the dive was not a part of any scheduled training.
Asked about the purpose of the dive and whether others were aware the dive was taking place, Bruen said those questions will be part of the investigation.
“We’re going to have to conduct an investigation to determine exactly what happened here,” Bruen said.
The investigation is expected to be wide-ranging, Bruen said.
“There’s a number of things we look into when we have something like this, an accident: equipment, behavior of the individuals, training gaps or not gaps,” Bruen said. “All that stuff is considered.”
Monda was a native of the Schenectady County area, and is survived by his fiancé, his mother and father, state police said.
He joined the state police in September 2002 and, except for a year assigned to the North Country, served his entire tenure with the troop that covers the Capital Region, Troop G. He was most recently assigned to the Princetown barracks.
His time included assignments to the state fair in Syracuse, a selective assignment. In 2017, he was selected for the marine patrol unit over other qualified candidates. That unit works in rescues, assisting boaters and enforcing laws and regulations on the water, officials said.
State Police Major Christopher West said he first met Monda when Monda attended state police basic school in 2002.
“He was well-liked by his classmates then and that continued out to the field now, all these years later, a well-liked guy. He was a hard worker,” West said.
In more recent years, West recalled Monda kidding with him over local knowledge.
“He joked around a lot that when he stopped people, when he would see people, he thought he knew more people than me,” West said, noting that he would joke back by expressing skepticism with Monda of Monda’s statement.
Others who knew Monda expressed similar sentiments, about his love for his job and his work.
Half a decade ago, about when he was selected for the marine patrol unit, Monda took a parks and recreation class taught by environmental conservation officer Shane Manns. Manns recalled Monda Monday for both.
“I knew Jimmy. He was a good man,” Manns said in a statement issued after a request. “He loved being on that lake.”
In Schenectady, a fellow law enforcement officer in the county where he worked, recalled Monda even encouraging the officer to take the civil service exam. The officer relayed his recollections through city police spokesman Officer Pat Irwin, also after a request for an officer who could offer words on Monda. Irwin indicated the officer did not which to be identified.
“I was shocked and saddened to hear about the sudden passing of Trooper Monda,” the officer’s statement read. “Before I entered law enforcement, he always encouraged me to take the civil service exam, and from our conversations, I could tell how much he loved his job.
“Years later, when we got to ride together during the blue and gray (city police and state police) details, his attitude was still the same. He was caring, funny, had an infectious smile and left a lasting impression many of us will never forget,” the Schenectady officer’s recollection concluded.
Finally, Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino said Monday that while he did not know Monda directly, he knew others in law enforcement who did and he knew family.
“The people I knew who knew him say he was very well liked and a very good trooper,” Giardino said.