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Hunting dog dies in Stone Tavern Lake

Responders unable to reach scene in time for rescue

Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 12/26/05

BY ALESHA WILLIAMS

STAFF WRITER

UPPER FREEHOLD — Emergency responders were unable to save a hunting dog from its death in Stone Tavern Lake on Saturday.

The 45-pound Brittany spaniel belonged to a hunter at Assunpink Wildlife Management Area, where the lake is located, according to State Police.

"The dog was helping him hunt, going after a bird," Trooper Eric Gumina said. "(The dog) followed the bird out onto the ice. The middle of the lake was thawed out about 20 feet in, and the dog fell in."

The hunter, a 35-year-old Jackson man, alerted State Police and Hope Fire Company of Allentown at 12:15 p.m. Hope firefighters were the first to the scene at 12:33 p.m.

By then, the dog already was floating on the surface of the water, Hope Fire Deputy Chief Don Swaysland said.

"The dog had been in the water at least 18 minutes," Swaysland said. "I'm sure he just got tired and hypothermic and probably passed away from hypothermia first rather than drowning."

State Trooper William Carvounis said the response was hindered because the caller was unsure of his own location. The lake is about a quarter-mile north from County Road 524, Carvounis said.

"We were all in a frantic rush going through Assunpink trying to find where they might have been," Carvounis said.

Carvounis also said responders need to have a better working knowledge of the refuge, which is popular for pheasant hunting.

"We're pretty good with knowing the area, but there's a lot of little dirt trails and things, and we don't know where they go," Carvounis said.

He said he will be working with park rangers to draft clear maps to help emergency responders navigate the site.

"(The troopers who responded) are all dog owners so I think it's more of an emotional loss," Carvounis said. "The dog didn't know what it was doing, then it was scared trying to get back on land, so you feel pretty bad about it. Despite everything we see, this definitely hits home."

Alesha Williams: (732) 308-7756 or awilliams@app.com 

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