A Vermont rescue squad hopes new drone footage will alert people to risks inside the Huntington Gorge, a natural swimming hole with hidden dangers and a long list of victims.
"It looks inviting, but it very quickly turns into something else," said Joe Gannon, a paramedic with Richmond Rescue who is also a drone pilot.
Gannon said he wanted to use a drone to illustrate how powerful the Huntington River can get following rainfalls like this past weekend's, when new water rushes through the river and empties into the notorious Huntington Gorge.
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Twenty-six people have lost their lives in the Huntington Gorge since 1950, including 22-year-old Elainie Santor of Milton in July of 2015, according to a list compiled by the Richmond Police Department.
The police department's list shows three of the deaths were suicides. One victim was a Vermont State Police diver who was on a recovery mission.
Most of the other victims were swimmers, waders, or divers who got caught in unseen whirlpools then swept through debris-filled rock formations, Gannon said.
"The vast majority of people who went there and died, I'm sure, had no thought that this would be their last day on the planet," Gannon told necn. "I'm sure they felt perfectly capable of swimming there and coming home. They were wrong."
"There's no need to risk your life," added Chief Al Buck of the Richmond Police Department. "That's what you're doing. You're risking your life every time you jump in that water, whether the water's low like it has been or whether it's raging like it can be."
The Huntington Gorge is already well-marked with warning signs, but Richmond Rescue said it plans to use its new footage for a public service announcement and in social media posts. The aim, Gannon said, is to alert young people in particular that the Huntington Gorge is best admired from afar.
"Whatever they can do to inform the public that this is a place to avoid would be good," said Matt Roeder, who lives near the gorge and who enjoys swimming at other, safer spots.
In 2014, the Vermont Department of Health provided a list of tips regarding swimming hole safety.