Police in Richmond, Vermont, urged the public to avoid the Huntington Gorge, an outdoor swimming hole where a 22-year-old woman died Sunday evening. The death of Elanie Santor of Milton, Vermont, was the twenty-sixth in the gorge since the 1950s, the Richmond Police Dept. said.
Cpl. Rick Greenough said Santor was with friends at the gorge Sunday evening, wading in the cool water, when she lost her footing and was washed away. Santor and her friends were not drinking alcohol, Greenough said, recounting information supplied by witnesses.
Several signs by paths leading down to the gorge advise swimmers to turn around, due to hazards in the water and the site’s deadly history.
“Heed the warnings,” Greenough said. “It is beautiful to look at, but it is so dangerous.”
While the case is still under investigation, Santor’s preliminary cause of death was accidental drowning, Greenough said. He noted that many more swimmers, including experienced ones, have needed to be rescued from the raging water at the gorge over the decades.
“It’s incredibly unpredictable and that’s the thing people don’t understand,” Greenough said. “You can look at it and it looks incredibly calm, but once you get in there, that current has a mind of its own.”
Adding new urgency to the warnings, heavy rain recently has made currents and whirlpools in rivers even more powerful and dangerous, said Mike Cannon of Colchester Technical Rescue, an agency which participated in Monday’s recovery of Santor’s body.
“We’ve had one of the wettest Junes on record,” Cannon told necn. “The water levels are up, and the water is moving faster in a lot of places.
The temperatures are getting into the 80s and 90s; we’re going to see this again if people don’t start heeding some of the warnings.”
Greenough said Santor’s friend, Brian Maccione of Milton, tried in vain to save her. Maccione also was pulled under the water by the force of the current, Greenough said. He added Maccione was treated and released from the University of Vermont Medical Center for injuries suffered in the gorge.
Cannon said he believes Maccione came close to being a second victim of the Huntington Gorge on Sunday.
While participating in the recovery effort, Cannon said one firefighter suffered an ankle injury Sunday night, and another first responder suffered a hand injury Monday morning. He suggested that if even experts in safety have trouble navigating the wet and slippery conditions near the gorge, that should tell the public it is not a place they should visit.