It was just after 6 p.m. on Saturday evening, cold and rainy and getting dark, and Beltzville State Park Ranger Thomas Duarte was getting ready to call it a day when the call came in: two adults, a baby between them, were clinging to a sinking canoe in the middle of the lake.
"I saw the boat out toward the middle of the lake and I decided to swim out there and see if I could help," he said. Duarte swam through the frigid water "it took a while," he said and saw there was a "baby with a life jacket on and two adults hanging onto the side of the canoe."
Only the tips of the ends of the canoe were above water; the baby was floating in the middle and a man and a woman were clinging to the sides. The woman wore a life jacket but the man did not, Duarte said.
"When I got to them, I asked them if they were OK and they just shook their heads," Duarte said. He told them to hold onto the boat and kick their feet.
Duarte attached a rope to the canoe and began to pull it to shore. Minutes later, Palmerton Police Officer Kevin Buck, who also works part-time for the Lehighton Police Department, arrived with a boat he borrowed from a fisherman. Buck and the boat's owner went out and brought the baby back to shore to the waiting arms of emergency medical technicians. Then, Duarte said, they went back out to rescue the adults.
All were treated for hypothermia, with at least one person being flown to the hospital.
Duarte, who also is a part-time police officer in Palmerton and Tamaqua, said the rescue was his first. Last year, Beltzville park sent him to a water rescue course, "but that was for river rescue," he said.
The names of those rescued were not available as of early Monday. Some reports indicate there was another man in the canoe who had swum back to shore.