Croton River Boaters Sought Thrill Ride, Found Calamity [VIDEO]

The quintet of friends from around Westchester are today mourning one of their members.

Five men decided to take a raft down the Croton River Sunday afternoon, as Tropical Storm Irene wound down.

They entered the river from Croton Gorge Park in Cortlandt at the base of the dam in a five-person inflatable.

 The first call for rescue came in at 5:41 p.m.

  • At 5:52 p.m. police officers found Joseph Ceglia, 33, of White Plains, clinging to a tree branch in the vicinity of Mayo's Landing. They pulled him from the water.  
  • At 6:02 p.m. got a call from Kenneth Gianquinto, 37, of Valhalla. He had floated downstream, made his way to the Ossining bank of the river, flagged a car down and called police on a cell phone. 
  • At 6:12 p.m. Michael Wolfert, 37, of Croton-on-Hudson, was located in the vicinity of 91 Trusedale. He had climbed ashore and out of the ravine.
  • At 6:24 p.m. Croton police Lt. Russell Harper spotted Peter Engel, 53, of Cross River, in the rapids just south of Mayo's Landing. An inflatable police boat was able to pull him out. Engel was given CPR at Echo Landing and taken to Phelps Memorial Hospital Center in Sleepy Hollow, where he was pronounced dead. 
  • At 7:28 p.m. Brian Dooley, 33, of Yorktown, was located clinging to a tree limb in the rapids about 300 yards south of Silver Lake park. Emergency crews struggled to reach him by boat or helicopter. At about 8:45 p.m., he broke free. Within about 20 seconds he was out of the snag and racing downriver where he was rescued by Croton police officers in an inflatable river rescue boat in the area of Dickie's Cliffs. Suffering from hypothermia, he was taken to Echo Landing, then to Westchester Medical Center.

Three Croton firefighters also had to be rescued. One set of rescuers had been stationed at Echo Landing to look for victims at the mouth of the Croton River upstream from the Metro North trestle bridge.

As they put their boat into the river in the swift current, it overturned. Due to storm and tide, the level of the Croton River was almost up to the bottom of the railroad bridge. Three men were were swept under the bridge into the turbulent Hudson River, whipped by storm winds and surges. They were able to swim ashore at Croton Point south of the Croton-Harmon railroad yards. 

Paula August 29, 2011 at 10:26 PM
How is what I just wrote an attack? Do you really think that because people are nastier on Lohud, you aren't making the grieving process worse for Dr Engel's 2 sons?
Tiffany August 29, 2011 at 10:56 PM
I have several family members who work for the government- whether it is firefighters, EMT, or in the military. Part of their known responsibility is to save people's lives and risk their own. I understand that. I praise the efforts of all the men and women who put their lives in danger every day. I can assure you Dr. Engel's intentions weren't to put anyone's life in danger. He was experienced in white water rafting and unfortunately had a horrific turn of events. The reason why family members are reading these articles is because both of his children live out of state and are simply trying to find out the details of their father's death. It's easy to point fingers and say how 3 rescuers COULD have lost their lives. Well guess what. A life was lost. Period. Obviously he's paying the ultimate consequence, so why is it necessary to keep on with it. Dr. Engel was a loving father, a son, a brother, and a respected doctor among other things. His two kids are without a father. Take all personal opinions out and think about what you're saying.
Ashley Elam August 29, 2011 at 11:09 PM
I use mt whole name, I stand behind what I say! What these men did was foolish to say the least and made even more sad by the fact that one person did die and three others came within an inch of their life. People ride threw rapids far stronger than this for fun on a regular basis and when a news report comes out that they died in the rapids of New England somewhere everyone says it's sad and a tragedy and not what a dummy about them. My condolences to the family and take this as a lesson kids.
Paula August 29, 2011 at 11:14 PM
But as I said, I don't see anything nasty in what I written. I'm only asking bloggers to consider that people who read this may be grieving for Dr Engel. Some people like the one you mentioned might add to the grief of the family members or their rafting buddies, who do wish they could rewind that day and not go. Dr Engel's big thing in life, aside from whitewater rafting, was trying to help people with addictions and depression. Some people on this blog don't care if they increase depression to people who are just family members and survivors. I don't think it's being unkind to others to ask them to stop saying awful things about the deceased, and I'd even hope that some might even look back over what they've written and delete comments if you think a loved one may become even more depressed while grieving. Remember, if someone jumps off the TZB, a rescue worker may die attempting a save. Rafting buddy, Wolfert has already said they regret having gone out that day, that Dr Engel had 35 years experience in whitewater rafting and that some of their group were trained as first rescuers & had been involved in water rescues. It was not to make it sound like their decision to go rafting was a good one. They all regret it. Do you think being nasty on this site drives home a better lesson to be learned than just the reporting of the outcome of this story or is this blog intended for the therapeutic benefit of those who feel good causing more grief for Engel's loved ones?
Paula August 29, 2011 at 11:27 PM
Lanning, read my responses to these bloggers and try to find anything degrading I've written, yet they've used words like stupidity and idiocy. I'm not saying that there shouldn't be free speech, but people shouldn't purposely be unkind when discussing a recent death. I thought The Patch asked bloggers to "Keep it civil", and I'm not seeing it.
Paula August 29, 2011 at 11:32 PM
Thank you. I know it might seem odd, but every once in a while I google my mother's name, just to see if people added to tribute sites. People do look these things up.
Bill August 30, 2011 at 12:01 AM
BTW I watched the YouTube video when they were trying to find a place to launch from and it did appear that they knew what they were doing. So I would simply say that it was ill-advised. I don't know much about white-water rafting (I've only done it once) but I'm guessing they were class 6 (this is from Wikipedia): Class 6: Whitewater, typically with huge waves, huge rocks and hazards, huge drops, but sometimes labeled this way due to largely invisible dangers (e.g., a smooth slide that creates a near-perfect, almost inescapable hydraulic (see 'Holes' below), as at Woodall Shoals or Chattooga). Class 6 rapids are considered hazardous even for expert paddlers using state-of-the-art equipment, and come with the warning "danger to life or limb." (Skill Level: Expert)
marcela August 30, 2011 at 01:18 AM
Tiffany, a blog is meant to express personal opinions. Please understand that most people are simply outraged at the unthinkable idea of getting in the river right after a very severe tropical storm. Citizens were asked to stay out of the roads, let alone the river. On top of that, to know that three firefighters' lives were risked while trying to save five individuals who managed to get themselves in a lot of unecessary trouble make most people I've spoken with extremely upset. And I do feel very sorry for the pain this loss is causing to his loved ones. Both feelings are not mutually exclusive.
Paula August 30, 2011 at 01:44 AM
...and Marcella and Bill demonstrated that it is possible to have an opposing opinion without using insulting and uncivil words when describing a recently deceased person.
Gavin Hougham August 30, 2011 at 04:35 AM
Well, as a father myself I can only imagine that the poor guy who is no longer able to speak for himself might have felt guilty, stupid, sad, and ashamed for leaving his family alone like this. From what we can tell so far, it appears that the group was pretty well prepared, but something tragic happened. A part of him might also feel that he left this life while living it to the max, enjoying what life and opportunity has to offier to those willling to chance it. He chanced it. I feel for him and his family.
Julie August 30, 2011 at 02:25 PM
I am amazed at how this blog has become a forum for an unnecessary tug of war. The fact remains that a family has lost a loved one-their father, and those are the facts regardless of the events surrounding this tragedy. We all are very familiar with the first ammendment and this is certainly not about freedom of speech. It seems to me that your battle of words is more about feeling righteous and possibly attacked for voicing your opinion and less about being compassionate and human. Tiffany, I repect your loyalty to your friend and your desire to protect her family. unfortunately, until people realize that while they have every right to speak their mind, writing it is often another story. My deepest sympathy to the family nd loved ones of Peter Engel.
Lanning Taliaferro (Editor) August 30, 2011 at 03:20 PM
Paula, I think one can disagree with folks without saying they are acting like kids. I think everyone responding in this comment thread since my request for civility has for the most part used respect and restraint. Thank you all.
Jonathan August 30, 2011 at 04:06 PM
My family has done whitewater rafting for years. My sons still do it. When you raft on rivers that are known for it the rapids and channels are known and mapped entities so you can plan your route to avoid trouble spots while maximizing enjoyment and difficulty. When a river is raging like this at 50mph, it takes on a life of it's own and everthing becomes unknown and extrmely dangerous. I doub't very much that any commercial rafting outfit would have allowed people on this river in these conditions. If these guys were as experienced as they claim, they clearly should have known better than to try a stunt like this. Emergency rescue people have better things to do in a storm like this than devote resources to a bunch of daredevils who mess up seeking a rush. The whole thing is mindbogglingly stupid.
Zeph August 30, 2011 at 05:49 PM
Hmmm.... it appears that some people have an awful lot of time on their hands to sit here bickering with one another over the Freedom of Speech. You're not going to change the fact that we all have the right to exersize that freedom here or elsewhere so, here's a suggestion... rather than wasting another minute here - go do something productive. Maybe help a neighbor or go volunteer with the Irene clean-up, etc. Do it now! Ssshhh.. Stop! Stop typing! Go! Be useful!
Paula August 30, 2011 at 06:44 PM
Zeph, that's pretty judgmental of you. How do you know who is and who isn't monitoring their sump pumps today? There can be hours between my posts, and you have no idea what I've done in between them. I doubt you'll get a chance to read this because you're off being more productive than anyone else.
Alex August 30, 2011 at 06:52 PM
As a member of one of the swift water teams that responded, my condolences go out to the man who passed away. That being said, although what these men did was reckless, and placed our lives in danger, it is something anyone who responded would do again in a heartbeat. We train and expect these types of scenarios to occur, and departments would not have dedicated teams to respond to these incidents if they were not expected to occur. Although a vast majority of emergency services (Fire and EMS) in northern Westchester are all volunteer, including Croton FD, Yorktown FD, the County Technical Rescue Team (which its members have to come from other fire departments), and almost every other department involved in the rescue effort (with the exclusion of the Croton, County, NYC and NYS PD, there were enough personnel and crews relocated around the county to facilitate answering emergency calls in each district. As for whether or not these people should pay for the cost of the rescue, everyone pays taxes and it is in our budgets for these types of incidents to occur. Should you pay the fire department every time your house catches fire because you recklessly left your iron on,? We're not a private buisness, and all costs are subsidized by our customers who expect a swift and prompt response every time they dial 911. No one would call if they thought they would have to pay tens of thousands of dollars in bills to the fire and police department every time we respond somewhere.
Alex August 30, 2011 at 06:53 PM
I'm coping my post from Lohud (which I had to amend since it was too long for this site)
Paula August 30, 2011 at 07:06 PM
Thanks, Alex, what a good post, and I appreciate what you do.
Shep Hubbard August 30, 2011 at 10:04 PM
Seems to me if Mr. Engel was a riverguide he should have known better not to raft a river at FLOOD STAGE. What the heck kind of rafting company hires people like that?
Rose Elio August 30, 2011 at 11:36 PM
This message is for Tiffany. Tiffany I worked Dr. Engel and have been trying to reach his family. He worked for me at Open Door. The staff is devasted by his untimely death. Can you please have someone from the family contact us.
Bill August 31, 2011 at 01:38 AM
I see we have the LoHud folks joining us now.
theresa locher August 31, 2011 at 02:44 AM
Whats done is done!!!!!!!!! It is what it is, JUST DROP IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
rpaul August 31, 2011 at 04:42 PM
better them than me; I road those rapids hundreds of time, but you do not challenge mother nature during a hurricane. Love to all.
stefano September 01, 2011 at 01:20 AM
Right except for one thing...the firefighters and EMT's who risked their lives are VOLUNTEERS....while it is their goal NOT duty to save people risking their lives and perhaps devasting injury is not fair to put on them. Most of these men and women would risk themselves for an accident victim or fire victim but at what point do they risk all for an act of stupidity. While we mourn we must teach people that thinking is part of life.
clive jackson September 01, 2011 at 04:57 PM
tiffany just dont read the comments - pretty simple.
john September 01, 2011 at 05:46 PM
I won't debate whether or not Dr. Engel was loved, respected etc. I'll take your word on that. But let's look at the consequences of what he did and what almost happened here. He's dead. Three volunteer firemen could have died. Additional police officers could have died. Had there been emergencies elsewhere (not of a victim's "own making" as was certainly the case here), others could have died. Now Croton residents, indeed County residents, are being restricted not only from the gorge but from parks with a pond! A pond! Croton may also need a new boat. While these things are material, when coupled with the potential for loss of life, I have every right to complain about the foolhardy antics of men whose alleged real-life experience resulted in a very real-life death. Their "expertise" was born of little thought, steeped in over-confidence, and could have been deadly for everyone involved.
johnnyangel10 September 04, 2011 at 09:50 PM
No,but stupid questions should be
Brando September 13, 2011 at 08:26 PM
All people die, but not all truly live. At least they tried to do something adventurous and fun whilst the rest of you boring lemmings sit there and bitch about things on the internet.
Bob.Z September 19, 2011 at 04:22 PM
Probably 'Negative Comments' posted by people who likely cross three lanes of traffic a time (without thinking) on the highways or drive oblivious on the roads not realizing their impact to others. Peter lived a life that most would envy .... Stop typing and get off your couches. My heart goes out the rescuers & the family of the survivors who live on............
Steve November 12, 2011 at 10:46 AM
Where do you all find time to hang out online and engage in mind numbing chat for hours on end?


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