51 year old Sergeant Kerry Winters died Thursday during a training dive at the Ashokan Reservoir located 13 miles west of Kingston, one of two reservoirs that are part of New York City’s Catskill Water Supply System. Winters became separated from his two diving partners at approximately 12:30 PM and was found unresponsive less than five minutes later. He was declared dead shortly thereafter at HealthAlliance Hospital’s Broadway Campus in Kingston.
According to The Daily Freeman, Winters was an experienced diver and was wearing full dive gear, including a back up oxygen supply, at the time of his death.
State police and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating the incident and Sheriff PJ Van Blarcum said that no malfunctions have been found in Winters’ equipment.
Winters joined the Ulster County Sheriff’s Department in 1986 as a corrections officer and worked his way up through the ranks over the years. A 15 year veteran of the dive team at the Sheriff’s Office, Winters was involved in numerous rescue and recovery operations, including 30 rescues during Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Irene.
Winters’ death was being mourning by the Jewish community, which has a large presence in Ulster County during the summer months.
“During the hurricane there were a few Jewish camps in Wawarsing that flooded and the dive team under his command came in and helped us a lot,” Joel Gold, a chaplain with the Ulster County Sheriff’s Department, told VIN News.
“He was a great person,” added Gold.
According to Van Blarcum, Winters had no known medical issues.
He “was a big, strong bear of a guy,” said Van Blarcum.
A resident of Saugerties, Winters leaves behind a wife and two grown children.
Funeral arrangements for Winters have yet to be announced.