AMSTERDAM - Divers on Wednesday recovered the body of a 19-year-old city resident who drowned in the Mohawk River near Lock 11.
The body of Eduardo Figueroa was pulled from the river around 11:05 a.m. Wednesday. Divers found Figueroa in about 20 feet of water, approximately halfway across the river channel, according to Amsterdam Police Lt. Kurt Conroy.
Dive teams from the Amsterdam Police Department and Fire Department, the St. Johnsville Volunteer Fire Department and the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department searched the waters beginning at 8:25 a.m. They were joined by divers from state police and the Vermont State Police, who volunteered while on a training dive, Conroy said.
Amsterdam Police Chief Greg Culick stands at the scene of a drowning near Lock 11 in Amsterdam on Wednesday.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
A total of 33 divers took part in the search, Conroy said. Air boats from the state police, the St. Johnsville Volunteer Fire Department and the Montgomery County Sheriff's department also participated in the search.
Divers conducted "grid searches," working in groups of six at a time and moving buoys after searching a given grid, he said.
Visibility in the water was limited to about 1 foot, and divers had to be careful of "a decent surface current and a strong bottom current," Conroy said. The coldness of the water may also have been a factor, Conroy said; the water temperature was about 60 degrees.
Figueroa was swimming from the lock wall toward Bronson Island when he apparently became tired and tried to grab a log in the water, Conroy said.
"Witness accounts [of where he was when he went under water] were accurate," he said.
Witnesses said Figueroa was swimming with family members and friends. His 13-year-old brother began swimming toward the island, which is about 200 yards from shore, and Figueroa jumped in to help him, witnesses said. The younger brother and another youth made it to Bronson Island, but Figueroa did not, Conroy said.
Amsterdam police received a 911 call at 3:52 p.m. Tuesday from a witness who said a swimmer was struggling while swimming in the east side of the river channel. The Amsterdam Fire Department rescue boat was launched immediately, but rescue efforts were hindered by heavy rain and winds. Thunder and lightning forced rescuers to call off the search about 6 p.m. Tuesday and resume Wednesday morning.
Police emphasized that swimming near the locks is prohibited and dangerous.
"It's not a swimming area, and there's no regulation that allows people to swim here," Conroy said.
The river was not closed to boat traffic, but boaters were escorted by fire officials on personal watercraft as they passed through the search area, Conroy said.
John R. Becker covers Montgomery County news. He can be reached at email@example.com.