Swimmer at Six Mile Creek pronounced dead after unsuccessful resuscitation attempts

July 26, 2015 by Mark H. Anbinder

A swimmer who jumped into the Six Mile Creek reservoir could not be resuscitated this evening after a rescue attempt, according to the Ithaca Fire Department. 

Tompkins County Sheriff's Department, IFD, and Bangs responded to the scene of a fatal gorge swimming injury at Six Mile Creek this evening.Tompkins County Sheriff's Department, IFD, and Bangs responded to the scene of a fatal gorge swimming injury at Six Mile Creek this evening.Lt. Brian Weinstein from Ithaca Fire Department tells us that IFD crews, Ithaca police, Bangs Ambulance, and the Tompkins County Sheriff's Department responded to the scene before 7pm tonight when people in the area called to report a friend had jumped into the water and hadn't come back up.

First responders arrived to find the individual had been taken out of the water by friends, and CPR was being performed, according to Lt. Weinstein, who said the person was not breathing and had no pulse.

Responders at the scene took over CPR and life-saving efforts, but Lt. Weinstein says, "Ultimately, they weren't successful, and the individual was pronounced dead at the scene."

Swimmers jumping off a bunker into the reservoir above Second Dam. 14850 file photo.Swimmers jumping off a bunker into the reservoir above Second Dam. 14850 file photo.The area east of Downtown Ithaca is the site of frequent injuries despite repeated warnings and reminders that it's illegal and dangerous to swim thereLegal swimming is available in such natural areas as Buttermilk Falls State Park, Robert H. Treman State Park, and Taughannnock Falls State Park, but swimmers venturing into prohibited areas are too often seriously injured or killed due to falls or unexpectedly strong currents. Cornell and Ithaca police officers, Tompkins County sheriff's deputies, and park rangers patrol the area's gorges to remind visitors to stay on the legal trails and avoid trespassing.

After an injury at the same site last year, George Tamborelle, a paramedic with Bangs Ambulance and chief of the Cayuga Heights Fire Department, told us, "This one injured swimmer tied up two fire engines, an ambulance, the duty chief, and three sheriff's deputies." At the time, Tamborelle told 14850 Today, "There were at least ten people down there today, and several of them were even still jumping off the bunker into the water while we were in there rescuing this guy."

Local authorities put out reminders each spring and summer that people must "stay on approved trails and obey posted warning signs," and the Ithaca Fire Department has said that "failure to do so is unlawful and puts themselves and rescuers in danger." Swimmers jumping into the reservoir are jumping near Second Dam, a concrete wall with a thirty-foot waterfall drop to the creek below. The reservoir is part of the City of Ithaca's water system, and signs at all of the gates and trail entrances to the area warn that swimming, rock climbing, and a variety of other activities are prohibited in the City watershed.

Signs along Route 79 where parking is prohibited from May 1 to September 30. 14850 Photo.Signs along Route 79 where parking is prohibited from May 1 to September 30. 14850 Photo.In another effort to curtail illegal swimming in the area known as Second Dam, the Town of Ithaca last year began towing swimmers' illegally parked cars. In 2012, the Town Board succeeded in convincing the New York State Department of Transportation to make parking along Route 79, or Slaterville Road, illegal for the summer. Parking is not allowed along the posted portion of Route 79 from 10am to 8pm, from May 1st to September 30th. The Town of Ithaca doesn't have its own police force, but Tompkins County Sheriff's Department deputies can ticket illegally parked cars and arrange for them to be towed. 

Lt. Weinstein said Ithaca Fire Department was not prepared to tell us more about this evening's victim until local law enforcement had a chance to notify family members. "It's a reminder to us all to be careful," he said. 

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