HOPATCONG, NJ – A man who nearly drowned after falling out of a canoe on Lake Hopatcong was rescued by police and a local man Tuesday, police said.
The man, John Laureano, 22, of Skytop Road, appeared to be under the influence of alcohol when he was pulled from the lake after a man on shore, who heard him yelling, summoned help, said Hopatcong Police Lt. Thomas Kmetz.
Kmetz said Hopatcong Police Sgt. Meghan Antonello and Officer Jerry Mancuso responded to the area of Thompson Lane, near Katz’s Marina, at about 8:40 p.m. “for a report of a person yelling for help from the lake.”
The cries for help were heard by resident Don Bogardus, 54, who called Charles Anderson, 73, after alerting police. “He’s my neighbor,” said Anderson. “He called the police department first. Then he called me and asked me if I heard anybody screaming on the water.”
Anderson went outside onto his dock and “could see something black in the water and somebody there,” he said. “I could also see police cars on their way. I started up my patio boat and went to the other side of the house to wait for the police to get here.”
Kmetz said the police boarded Anderson’s boat and were onto the lake. They found a capsized 16-foot-long canoe which Anderson said was about 200 yards offshore.
“As they got closer, they observed a male who was in the water next to the canoe,” said the lieutenant. He said the young man “was struggling to stay above the water” and was “attempting to use the canoe as a floating device.”
Laureano could not hold onto the canoe and went under the water several times as Antonello and Mancuso unsuccessfully tried to get him to grab life preservers they threw in his direction, said Kmetz. Eventually, the police “grabbed Laureano's arms and pulled him onto Mr. Andersen's boat,” he said. “Laureano was shivering, disoriented and pale in color.”
Kmetz said Mancuso and Antonello repeatedly asked Laureano if he was alone. After determining Laureano was unaccompanied, the officers had Anderson return to shore, where Laureano was transferred to the Hopatcong Ambulance Squad and taken to St. Clare’s Hospital in Dover.
“While talking to Laureano, (Mancuso and Antonello) could smell a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from his breath,” said Kmetz. “His speech was slurred and slow.” The lieutenant said it is not illegal to be under the influence of alcohol in a non-powered boat, so police are not planning to charge Laureano with any offenses.
Afterward, Anderson gave boat rides to members of the Hopatcong Fire Department. “They located the canoe and were able to pull it onto Mr. Anderson’s boat,” said Kmetz. “They took it back to Katz’s Marina.”
Anderson said he’s lived on the lake for 22 years. Asked if it felt good to play a part in saving a life, he simply said “Somebody needed help.”