Sparta Official Pulled from Frigid Swamp in Wilderness
BY GEORGE BERKIN AND JIM LOCKWOOD
11 December 2003
Sparta's deputy mayor, hunting bear and deer in a
wilderness area of Sussex County, got lost for more than two hours last
night, spending more than an hour trapped in bone-chilling, waist-deep swamp
water, authorities said.
But as about a dozen rescuers located the frozen hunter on
Hamburg Mountain in Hardyston Township, they, too, got caught in the icy
waters -- setting in motion a massive rescue effort.
The bedraggled hunter, Scott Seelagy, 42, was finally
pulled from the wilderness north of Route 23 around 8 p.m., according to
police. He was taken to Morristown Memorial Hospital, where he was held
overnight for observation for hypothermia, said his wife, Kimberly.
"He's fine," Kimberly Seelagy said from the hospital,
where her husband was surrounded by a phalanx of doctors and nurses. "He'll
go back out (today)," she added.
"He's doing okay," added his mother-in-law, Carol Derise,
reached at the family home in Sparta. "He likes to hunt."
Seelagy began hunting yesterday morning, according to
friends. He and a friend were hunting east of the Black Bear Country Club,
in the area of Silver Grove Road.
But by late afternoon, Seelagy discovered that he was
lost. At 5:15 p.m., either Seelagy or his friend called family members from
a cell phone, friends said.
Seelagy walked west, over the mountain toward Franklin,
police said. He spotted a red light from a water tower and used it for
guidance. But soon, he walked into a swamp, and could not move.
There, in the pitch dark, he was stuck for more than an
Meanwhile, police officers, using lights and sirens,
searched for him, and finally located him. To aid in the rescue, Seelagy
fired his firearm into the ground.
Rescuers finally arrived. First on the scene was Franklin
Fire Chief Joseph Kistle and Hardyston police officer
"It was where he was in a swamp up to his waist, and the
guys going in had a hard time," said Franklin police Lt. Milo Mastro.
Throughout, Seelagy was freezing, but alert. "He's lucky,"
"They thought they were going to lose him. He was kind of
More than a dozen ambulances were dispatched, and the
rescuers were pulled out and sent to area hospitals, mostly for hypothermia.
State Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose, (R-Sussex),
said Seelagy was out all day hunting bear and deer with her husband, Morgan
McHose. Late in the afternoon, the pair were separated when Seelagy became
lost, but was able to stay in contact via cell phone.
After the rescue was over, Kistle, the Franklin police
chief, described the icy swamp water as "shocking" cold.
"Ed (O'Rourke) and I were together and couldn't move him.
He was in 3 or 4 feet" of water, Kistle said. "The poor guy's got to be
Kistle said that although he became submerged up to his
chest during the ordeal, he did not end up having to go to a hospital.
Franklin Emergency Management Coordinator Phil Crabb said
seven emergency personnel were taken by ambulances to local hospitals for
exposure, including five Franklin firefighters, one Ogdensburg firefighter
and one Wallkill Valley First Aid Squad member.
Crabb did not release the names of those seven. Thirteen
ambulances from seven area first aid squads and Saint Clare's paramedics, as
well as four fire departments, Franklin, Hardyston, Ogdensburg and Hamburg,
The rescue effort took place behind the Weis Supermarket,
which is off Route 23 in Franklin, where the Black Bear golf course abuts
The hunter was found in Hardyston, about 100 yards from
the Franklin border.
Copyright 2003 The Star-Ledger