(Editor’s note: A criminal charge is merely an allegation that a defendant has committed a violation of the criminal law, and it is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the state of New York’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.)
Search for missing teens
On June 25, ECO Pete Jackson responded to a request from Jefferson County 911 for assistance with a water rescue. Two subjects were missing in the water in the vicinity of Robert Wehle State Park in the town of Henderson. An 18-year-old male and a 14-year-old male were last seen swimming near the cliffs along the shoreline of Lake Ontario. Jackson responded to the area, where high winds were creating four-foot waves. Lt. Steve Bartoszewski determined that the 31-foot Safeboat A-3 would need to be deployed based on the conditions. ECO Ron Gross joined Bartoszewski and Jackson to crew the vessel, searching the shoreline of the Stony Point peninsula along with the United States Coast Guard and the New York State Police. The search continued until approximately 9:30 p.m. when it became too dark to continue in the difficult conditions. The search team recommenced early the next morning in more favorable weather conditions with gentle winds and no waves. The ECOs searched the shoreline until approximately 12:15 p.m., when Gross spotted one of the subjects submerged in approximately 12 feet of water. The NYSP dive team was close by and within minutes, the bodies of both subjects were recovered.
Tragically, DEC forest rangers and ECOs have aided in the search and recovery of several visitors to New York’s rivers, streams, and other bodies of water over the past few weeks, many of whom did not have personal flotation devices (PFDs) with them. These visitors were unprepared for waterways made dangerous by recent heavy rains. DEC encourages people to use common sense when recreating in swift waters, especially after heavy rains that swell streams and rivers. Places normally safe for swimming or boating can quickly become dangerous after storms. Water is forceful, and even good swimmers have a tough time staying afloat due to turbulence and hydraulics. Visitors to rivers, streams, or any bodies of water should always wear a PFD, even in a tube or other floatation device.
U.S. Coast Guard Safeboat and Canadian helicopter searching for the missing teens on Lake Ontario.
Busted with hidden fish
On the evening of June 28, ECO Evan McFee was patrolling the southern shores of Brooklyn for fishing activity. The arrival of schools of porgy, a popular marine district fish, had spiked an increase of fishing activity by locals in recent days. McFee observed approximately 20 fishermen on one particular beach catching fish and tossing back those shorter than the 10-inch legal length. One individual caught McFee’s attention when he reeled in a fish and proceeded to hide it in the bushes some distance away. McFee struck up a conversation with the fisherman and asked how the fishing had been that evening. The fisherman replied that he had no luck and had not caught anything. McFee went to the area where he had seen the individual place a fish and found a plastic bag with ice and five porgies, all measuring well under the 10-inch mark. The fisherman admitted that they were his and received a summons returnable to Kings County Court.
Illegal culvert installation
On June 29, ECO Mark Mazurkiewicz and DEC fisheries staff inspected an improperly installed culvert on Little Buffalo Creek, a protected trout stream in the town of Holland. They found a 2,000-gallon fiberglass gasoline storage tank with the ends cut off had been used for the culvert without proper permits. The landowner will be required to have the culvert removed and replaced with a properly sized culvert installed in accordance with DEC guidelines. Mazurkiewicz cited the property owner with non-permitted disturbance of a protected stream, returnable to Holland Town Court, where the charge could result in a criminal fine up to $10,000, and/or up to a year in jail, and a civil penalty up to $5,000.
A busy evening patrol
On the evening of July 1, ECOs Waldemar Auguscinski, Chris Macropoulos, Will Chomicki, and Zach Brown patrolled the waters of New York City aboard vessel A-12 as part of Operation Dry Water, a national effort to curb boating while intoxicated. They were joined by members of the U.S. Coast Guard. The ECOs conducted marine fishing checks and issued four tickets for possession of undersized fluke and a navigation law violation for insufficient personal floatation devices (PFDs). The Coast Guard also terminated three trips for safety violations and escorted the vessels back to their home ports. The officers received a call from the U.S. Park Police during the patrol, reporting illegal clamming near the Howard Beach Channel. Brown and Chomicki joined the park police and located three individuals taking clams from uncertified waters.
New York Air Show
The 2017 New York Air Show took place at Stewart International Airport on July 1-2. ECOs Travis McNamara, Andrew Kostuk, Chris Lattimer, Melissa Burgess, John Helmeyer, and Maxwell Nicols provided security with ATV patrols along the inside perimeter of the airfield. The ECOs assisted with calls ranging from patron medical emergencies to crowd and traffic control. Thousands of spectators attended the event over the weekend, which showcases the famous U.S. Navy Blue Angels.
Camping while wanted
On June 29, ECO Josh Sulkey was checking a fishing spot and came across an unattended campfire. Sulkey noticed that the campers had a lot of personal belongings at the campsite, and that it appeared to be more than just a weekend camping trip. Based on evidence at the site, Sulkey determined the campers were from Florida. He left the area and returned later with an Ulster County sheriff’s deputy. A group was at the site this time, and checks of their identities determined that one of the campers was a fugitive from justice from Florida wanted on felony charges. The camper was arrested and arraigned in Rochester Town Court and sent to the Ulster County Jail pending extradition proceedings.
Air show on the Lake
On July 1-2, in honor of Independence Day, the city of Dunkirk held the Dunkirk Lakeshore Airshow on Lake Erie near Dunkirk Harbor. ECOs Darci Dougherty and Kevin Budniewski were part of a multi-agency security detail along with the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Department, New York State Police, U.S. Coast Guard, and Dunkirk Police and Fire Departments. The purpose of the detail was to maintain the security of the exclusion zone. The ECOs ensured that boat traffic from within the harbor did not enter the 1000-foot buffer zone, allowing the air show to continue without interruption. There were no major incidents during the show.