Press-Republican

July 30, 2013

Divers search for missing Vermont man

By KIM SMITH DEDAM
Press-Republican

---- — WESTPORT — Police say Michael L. Mindell didn’t resurface after he jumped from a cliff into Lake Champlain on Saturday.

Monday, joined by divers from State Police, Westport and Port Henry fire department divers continued the search for the Vermont man, said State Police Troop B Bureau of Criminal Investigation Lt. John Coryea.

As of 5 p.m., Mindell, 39, of Shelburne, had not been found, he said.

He was boating with friends on Saturday, State Police said in a statement, and they pulled the boat up alongside the Palisades Cliffs in Westport.

“Mindell climbed part way up the cliffs to a small plateau, where he turned and jumped into Lake Champlain.”

He was not seen again, the release said.

The incident occurred around 6 p.m. Saturday.

An immediate grid search of the lake, which is more than 200 feet deep in that area, failed to locate Mindell.

Westport Fire Chief Jim Westover said police called in Port Henry Fire Department’s rescue boat to assist, along with the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard ended its participation in the search on Monday, according to a spokesman at the Burlington station, referring all calls to New York State Police.

JAGGED CLIFFS

The State Department of Environmental Conservation Split Rock trail system winds through dense forest toward some 4 miles of waterfront cliffs.

The Split Rock peninsula marks an entrance to the Lake Champlain “Narrows,” where the thinner, lower stretch of waterway pours north into the broad lake.

The Champlain Palisades in Split Rock Wild Forest are 200-foot-high jagged cliffs rising from the lake bottom 140 feet below.

Chris Maron, director of Champlain Area Trails in Westport, said the state hiking trails through Split Rock approach an overlook on state land.

“There are no real trails that go to the top of the Palisades, a cliff along the lake that drops down to the water,” he said of the terrain.

“The water is several hundred feet deep. The deepest part of Lake Champlain is between where Split Rock is, in Essex, and Vermont. It’s the narrowest part of the lake.”

Maron had no information about Mindell or the rescue effort.

State Police ask anyone who may have witnessed Mindell’s fall to call the Lewis barracks at 873-2750.

Email Kim Smith Dedam: kdedam@pressrepublican.com