Esopus tuber drowns in Phoenicia accident

By Jay Braman Jr.
A Kerhonkson man drowned in a tubing accident Sunday afternoon in the Esopus Creek in Phoenicia.
According to Shandaken Police, Peter Debaun, 55, was tubing with a group on the creek when he fell from his tube in strong rapids and his legs became stuck in underwater rocks.
Someone from the Sleepy Hollow Campground, which abuts the stream, called 911 at 3:30 p.m. A dive team was dispatched to the scene, about a mile east of the Phoenicia business district, but Debaun had drowned before the rescue efforts began.
Debaun was pronounced dead by the Ulster County Medical Examiner, police said.
The death happened at a spot tubers must pass through, where the full volume of the creek narrows to about 35 feet in width and is squeezed up against a 15 or 20 foot high bank of riprapped stone that holds the Sleepy Hollow Campground property in place. It is a 200-foot- long section of narrow Class 3 whitewater, about waist-high, with a single line of descent that takes tubers down a defined chute.
The last tubing death on the Esopus occurred in 2002, when 17-year-old Nicole Coppolino of Brooklyn was pulled down by fast-moving water and trapped by underwater branches. That incident occurred several miles upstream from Sunday’s fatality in the hamlet of Allaben. In recent years there was another death on the Esopus in nearby Mount Tremper when a woman kayaker got stuck in tree debris and drowned.
Town police were also assisted at the scene by state police, New York City Department of Environmental Protection Police, the Phoenicia Fire Department and Shandaken Ambulance paramedics.