Two me rescued after spill into frigid Pepacton
By Pauline Liu
Two local fishermen were plucked from the frigid water of the Pepacton Reservoir Sunday afternoon, only minutes before being overcome by hypothermia, according to officials.
The dramatic rescue took place about a half-mile north of the Shavertown Bridge. Another fisherman, Timothy Day of East Meredith, plucked Fleischmanns residents Carl Shader, 51, and his 17-year-old stepson, Peter Cella, from the chilly waters after their aluminum fishing boat capsized.
Hard to forget
“It’s amazing, you have no idea, when you leave to do something that it could be your last day,” said Shader, who admits that he keeps reliving the scene of the rescue.
“I picture myself on that boat and I can’t believe we made it despite the cold water temperature,” he added.
According to police from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), who also took part in the rescue, the reservoir’s water temperature was a bone-chilling 45 degrees Fahrenheit when the boat flipped over. The pair clung to their overturned boat for at least a half hour until help arrived. Fortunately for them, they were wearing life jackets, which helped keep them afloat.
“The key issue here is safety vests save lives,” said Shader. “I turned purple. Lt. Vandermark of the DEP Police told me, if we were in the water 15 minutes longer, we would have died from hypothermia.”
The accident took place about a half-mile north of the Shavertown Bridge. Shader, an avid outdoorsman known locally as a bear hunter, took Peter on his first reservoir fishing trip.
“Pete took a step and lost his balance between the seats and boat immediately went over,” said Shader.
“As an experienced fisherman, you don’t expect to be in a boat and a split second later, it flips over. I knew not to swim, because it was too far from shore and it was too cold. You’d run out of energy and you’d die.”
Shouting for help
Shader explained that he started shouting for help as he and Cella held onto the upside down boat. “There was nobody in sight and I was yelling, ‘Help, help, help!’” he said. “The word, ‘Help!’ was echoing over the mountains.
Pete noticed a guy off to our left. He was gone and he headed to his car.” It’s not clear if the unidentified man was the one who went to the nearby Tremperskill County Store for help.
“A man in a red sweatshirt came in and he asked my husband to call 911, because someone was in the water,” said the store’s co-owner, Candy Chin. That call, which came in at 1:25 p.m., brought the Andes Fire Department and DEP Police to the scene.
“They got us up on shore and we could hardly walk, all of our energy was gone,” he said.
Meanwhile, back at the reservoir, Shader and Cella found themselves being rescued by a stranger. “I kept yelling help, help, and out-of- nowhere, there’s a boat 100 yards behind me,” said Shader. “It was like he dropped out of the sky. He was a godsend. His name was Timothy Day of East Meredith. I just want to thank him. That’s the guy that saved our lives.” Day helped the pair into his boat and paddled them to shore. By that time, 22 members of Andes Volunteer Fire Department, some with oars in hand, were on the shoreline with a waiting ambulance. So were DEP Police.
Day could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, because he went back to the reservoir to do more fishing. However, Shader cannot say enough about how he rescued them. “I asked him, ‘Where did you come from?’” Shader explained. “He told me that he was about to leave, but he heard our cries for help. He knew we were the only guys left on the water, so he paddled to us as fast as he could. He knew the water was so cold.”
Shader explained that he has kept in touch with his rescuer. “I owe him a steak dinner that’s larger than New York State,” he said. “He’s going to come to the house. I’m taking him on a bear hunt with hounds this fall as a gift. He’s so happy, he can’t wait to do it.”
Shader is also grateful to the Andes Fire Department and the Emergency Medical Technicians for helping them to shore, checking them out and giving them warn suits to wear. “We could barely walk, because our energy was gone,” he said. Since Cella is a minor, an ambulance transported him to Margaretville Hospital as a precaution and then he was released. “I can tell you that Pete’s mom was glad to see us,” Shader said. Cella’s mother, Barbara, teaches fourth grade at Roxbury Central School.
Shader also wants to thank the DEP Police. According DEP spokesperson Mercedes Padilla, the DEP Police Special Operations Division was dispatched to the scene. “They recovered the boat, the oars and the fishing tackle,” he said. “My thanks to the DEP police and I want to just congratulate them. They did a great job.”
Andes Fire Chief Joe Berghammer, who took part in the rescue, said his 52-member fire department has been updating its training, since the reservoir will be opening to increased non-motorized recreational boating as of Memorial Day weekend. “We just expect to be busier with kayaks, canoes and fishing boats on the reservoir,” said Chief Berghammer. “There’s no cell service on the reservoir. The only way to call 911 is when people driving by see boaters in distress and someone goes to the Tremperskill Country Store to call 911.”
Fortunately, for Shader and Cella, help arrived in time. Shader is telling everyone he sees about the importance of wearing a life jacket. “People get mad, when they get a ticket from DEP Police for not wearing a vest, but safety vests save lives,” he said. “You know as an avid fisherman and hunter, the last thing you’d think of is drowning or getting hypothermia, but it was just minutes away.”