A Century of Drownings at Harvey’s Lake (1863-1963)



A Century of Drownings at Harvey's Lake 1863 - 1963


Report of Study and Findings of Thirty-Six Drownings in Harvey’s Lake and Susquehanna River
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4. Drownings Decline: 1941-1963

Mack Stogner's sea plane is crippled after being hit by a speedboat in 1941. Teddy Frantz, piloting the speedboat, drowned after the collision.

On September 9, 1941, Teddy Frantz, age 53, who developed Stonehurst (near the Lake boat club), drowned after his twenty-foot motorboat collided with a seaplane moored near the Girl Scout camp. During the early evening Frantz had taken Ray Jewett, Detroit, and Margaret Brodhead, Wilkes-Barre, with her daughter Thelma, on a fast cruise in Frantz's 35 horsepower motorboat.

The seaplane, owned by Mack A. Stogner, New York City, had been at the Lake for 3 weeks. Stogner was staying in the Berwick area as manager of the food concession at the Berwick foundry plant. His plane was usually moored near the Mallander dock. As darkness approached Frantz's boat ripped through the plane's undercarriage and Frantz and Thelma Brodhead were thrown into the Lake. The young Thelma tried to rescue Frantz but she was injured herself and lost hold of Frantz. She was then able to swim to the Mallander dock. Frantz drowned in 35 feet of water. His body was recovered 4 hours later. His wristwatch had stopped at 7:22 P.M.

Frantz was recovered by use of a searchlight the County had purchased for underwater searches. Leading the Frantz search were Harvey's Lake Police Chief Ira C. Stevenson and patrolmen Fred Swanson and Cornelius Smith. Dr. Benjamin S. Davis was at the scene for the recovery.

The reports of drownings became fewer in later years. On July 19, 1942, four friends from Miners Mills rented a rowboat at Sandy Beach and were midway to the Picnic Grounds when an oar fell into the water. Anthony Burian, a 19 year old Army officer, and one of the friends, dove into the Lake for it. His friend, Joseph Wysocki, then lost his balance and fell into the Lake from the boat. When Burian sought to rescue Wysocki both became locked in a "death hold" and were drowned. Thirty boats and a State Police water rescue detail grappled the Lake bottom. George Jones, a veteran Lake lifeguard, used a Red Cross diving mask in an effort to recover the victims. Dan Davenport, Sr., located Wysocki on July 20, 1942, by grappling. On July 21 Burian was recovered by 12 year old Dan Davenport, Jr., who as in a rowboat aiding in the grappling with patrolman Fred Swanson. Nathan B. Iscovitz, 53, drowned on August 14, 1942, near Sandy Beach while renting a rowboat for lake use.

Joseph C. Hisarick, 18, of Edwardsville, nearly drowned on August 6, 1944, in 8 feet of water at Sandy Beach. Fortunately, deputy county coroner Dr. C.A. Miller, who had a cottage at the Lake, was at hand. He injected a stimulant which revived Chisarick and Chief Fred Swanson rushed him to the Nesbitt Hospital in Kingston.

Harry F. Sorber, Jr., 16, of Kingston, drowned on July 1, 1945. He was among 5 boys in a rowboat off Warden Place when they began to "rock the boat." Police Chief Fred Swanson tried to warn the boys. The boat capsized and Sorber slipped under the water. He was recovered by grappling. Swanson and others worked on Sorber for an hour. But Dr. Benjamin S. Davis had to pronounce him dead. Sorber was the first drowning since 1942.

On July 4, 1949, Walter Anusicwicz, 59, drowned after his small power boat sank. His wife and son were rescued. On July 13, 1949, the body of state trooper Frank Gilvery floated to the surface of the lake near Brokenshire’s Hotel at Warden Place. He had disappeared seven months earlier. His family believed he had gone to the Lake and the circumstances of the drowning were unclear.

Another drowning at the Lake did not occur until August 25, 1959, when Alexander Iwanski, 19, a visitor from New Jersey, died in his first attempt at scuba-diving. Iwanski, a college sophomore, was diving with two friends from Edwardsville. Iwanski was not using standard scuba gear and had difficulty while at a 15 foot depth. His friends were able to raise Iwanski to the surface but lost him. He slipped to the bottom. His friends tried to retrieve him, but could not locate him. Tommy O'Brien, the Lake diver, located the body in 25 feet of water.

Paula Wrobel, a 13 year old girl scout, from south Wilkes-Barre, saved the life of W. Bartholomew Mahon, age 8, in 1959 at Sunset. Mahon slipped from a water tube 30 feet out into the Lake. Wrobel swam out to Mahon, and with Mahon struggling in panic, Wrobel was able to bring Mahon to safety. In 1961 she was awarded the Carnegie Hero medal.

The final drowning for our 100 year mark in 1963 was Donald Hall, age 14, of south Wilkes-Barre. On June 14, 1961, Hall and a friend were at Warden Place in a rowboat. They lost an oar and both boys eventually dove into the Lake to recover it. Hall was lost in 50 feet of water. Nearly a score of scuba divers joined the rescue effort. Hall was found the next day. No drownings were located for 1962-63.


5. Post-1963 Drownings

The following drownings have been located for 1964-2018.

On June 27, 1976, Robert Brulo, 15, was swimming in the lake from a boat at Sunset when he disappeared from the surface of the Lake. His body was recovered by State Police scuba-divers and Tommy O'Brien, owner of the Harvey's Lake Diving School. Three years earlier in June 1973 O'Brien recovered the body of a Philadelphia man who drowned in a Franklin Township pond. Ronald Lupa, age 7, drowned while scuba-diving with a family member on August 13. 1976. He was in six feet of water.

James R. Passarielli, 23, drowned while swimming at a family dock on July 3. 1977.

On June 18, 1983, two adults and two children died in a horrible collision of motorboats on the Lake. The coroner concluded that all four deaths were caused by traumatic injuries and none by drowning.

In mid-June 1983 Kenneth Labar, 33, was in a boat on the Lake when he leaped into the Lake. He sank in 50 feet of water off Pole 56. A deputy sheriff, John Kastendieck, a trained scuba-diver, and Tommy O'Brien were unsuccessful in finding the victim and the body was never recovered. On May 1, 1988, Kenneth Cara, 30, a Schuylkill County policeman, was training at the Lake in scuba rescue techniques with other officers when he drowned for unknown reasons. No fault could be found with his equipment and a coroner's report could only conclude it was an unexplained drowning.

In March 1991 Leo Edwards, 38, drowned when his vehicle left the Lake road and plunged into the Lake. A Lake physician witnessed the accident, jumped into the water and pulled Edwards from the car but Edwards could not be revived. In June 1995 18 year old Arthur "Tommy" Rhone II drowned in the Lake near Pole 167.

In late April 1999 Atty. Joseph Gorman drowned when his car drove through a stop sign at the intersection of Noxen Road and Lakeside Drive next to the Hanson's Park grounds. The car crossed over Lakeside Drive and plunged into the Lake next to the Marina Cafe. The water temperature was estimated to be 43 degrees. Despite a rescue effort by James Starosta, Jr., Harvey's Lake Fire Department, and CPR by Starosta's son and wife, Gorman could not be revived.

Dakota Williams, 24, was incapacitated by an electrical shock while working on a Lake dock on July 2, 2016. He fell into the Lake and drowned.

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© 2002-2018 F. Charles Petrillo (Second Revised Nov. 2018)
Copyright 2006-2007 F. Charles Petrillo