ROXBURY, NJ - A machine that clears weeds from Lake Hopatcong capsized Wednesday morning throwing its longtime operator, a Roxbury resident, into the water where he apparently drowned, according to sources and police.

The 10:30 a.m. incident claimed the life of Landing resident Curtis Mulch, a man who has been operating the machine for about 12 years, according to sources and police.

It took place in the Crescent Cove section of the lake in Hopatcong Borough, said State Police. They said the cause of Curtis' death remains under investigation.

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It was the first time this season that the weed harvester was being used, said a source, noting that Crescent Cove was the most weed-choked part of the lake.

Mulch, in his late 60s, worked for the state Department of Environmental Protection Division of Parks and Forestry, said an acquaintance. "We lost a local resident on the harvester today. A Roxbury resident," he said, noting Mulch was married.

"He was a very experienced operator," said the source. "He knew that area of the lake. He's weed-harvested it many times."

The harvester, owned by the state, remained capsized in the lake.

Roxbury Councilman Mark Crowley, a member of the Lake Hopatcong Commission, said he is praying for the man's family. "It's a horrible thing," Crowley said.

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