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Officials warn of dangerous conditions on area waterways

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: Jul 02 2013 05:39:37 PM CDT

Authorities are now urging people to stay out of the water this July Fourth holiday weekend

BUCKS COUNTY, Pa. -

Crews pulled a man's body from the Delaware River on Tuesday afternoon, three days after a rafter went under almost 40 miles upstream.  After several other drownings and near-record rainfall, authorities are now urging people to stay out of the water this July Fourth holiday weekend.

Boaters discovered the body near a bridge that connects Upper Black Eddy in Bucks County to Milford, N.J.  An autopsy will confirm whether the body is Gary West, 38, of Summit, N.J.  West has been missing since Saturday afternoon, when his raft flipped over in fast-moving water south of the Delaware Water Gap.

A few miles away from where the body was found is Bucks County River Country, a rafting and kayaking business in Tinicum Twp.  Typically, up to 10 thousand visitors would be there over the July Fourth holiday.  It's been closed since Sunday.

"We are absolutely not open," said owner Dan Breen.  "Why?  Because of the high water."

A June that saw all-time record rainfall in spots has led to deadly results.  Last month, a kayaker from Northampton was killed in the Lehigh River, and 13 year-old boy is still missing from the rain-swollen Pennypack Creek in Northeast Philadelphia.

"The current is very, very high right now," said Lee Creyer with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

Commission crews were out on the Lehigh River Tuesday, getting ready for the July Fourth holiday.  Area rivers are between three and 12 feet above normal, officials said.  After nine water deaths in Pennsylvania so far this year, Creyer is begging people to stay on dry land this week.

"You can be the best swimmer, but you get in that current, and you're going to get tied very, very fast," said Creyer.

Breen said it's what you can't see below the surface that's often deadly.

"There are so many things that are in the water that you may not see, like branches or trees coming down," he said.

In spite of those warnings, we still saw a group of teenagers and some kayakers in the Delaware River with no life jackets on.

Creyer reminds people that even in safe conditions, jet ski operators and boaters under the age of 21 must have a Boating Safety Certificate.

"It's a course you take online or locally at different marinas," he said.  "Basically, it's like a driver's license for a boat."