MANCHESTER TOWNSHIP, NJ – A visit to a popular privately-owned 7000-acre tract of land in Manchester on Sunday afternoon ended tragically for a 22-year-old Cliffside Park man, Jimy Sadan Gomez-Estrada unlawfully visited the Heritage Mineral property (SARCO/ASARCO) on Sunday and attempted to swim in the lake with another individual around 6:30 pm. The two swimmers went into distress and the other individual was pulled from the water by a passerby, however, they were unable to reach Gomez-Estrada. Gomez-Estrada was subsequently pulled from the water by another passerby and lifesaving measures were initiated at the scene. Gomez-Estrada was transported to Community Medical Center where he was pronounced deceased. The preliminary investigation indicates the drowning to be accidental.
Assisting with this investigation is the Ocean County Sheriff’s Department Crime Scene Investigation Unit and the Ocean County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Anyone who may have been at “Crystal Lake” and witnessed this incident is asked to contact Detective Richard Conklin of the Manchester Township Police Department’s Investigations Bureau at 732-657-2009 ext. 4211.
Originally operated by ASARCO (American Smelting and Refining Company), Inc., the property was sold to and subsequently operated by Heritage Minerals until the cessation of mining operations in the early 1980’s.
As a former mining site, the property consists of 7,000 acres that connect the eastern section of the township off of Route 37 to the western section, off of Route 70. During its years of operation, the land was mined so deeply that numerous bodies of water often referred to as ‘lakes’ formed. These ‘lakes’ which are actually groundwater aquifers, litter the landscape on the site.
Seemingly unassuming, these bodies of water offer many dangers. Because the lakes were formed as a result of the mining operation, they do not have stable bottoms or shorelines, the way naturally occurring lakes do. The banks are very unpredictable and dangerously unstable. Those entering the water will quickly realize that after taking a few steps in the soft, unstable sand that the shoreline ‘shelf’ quickly drops off to depths that exceed 60 feet. Some estimates have the largest ‘lake’ on the property as being up to 300 feet deep.
Because these ‘lakes’ are not fed by any streams but rather by a deep underground source, the water is clear but very cold. These ‘lakes’ are filled with mineral-laden spring water from the underground aquifer and, as such, buoyancy is reduced. Additionally, the water is also much colder, which can result in a swimmer, even an accomplished one, tiring much faster. The characteristics of these ‘lakes’ to include unstable shoreline shelves and water composition have been attributed to several drownings which have occurred on the property.
The Manchester Township Police Department would like to remind the public that the Heritage Minerals or “ASARCO” site is private property. It is closed for recreational and/or other use and it is a criminal offense to enter or remain on the property. In the interest of public safety, the Manchester Township Police urges everyone to obey the “No Trespassing” signs posted at the site. Trespassers are subject to substantial fines and penalties up to and including incarceration for being on the property.
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