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Six Dead And Counting
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New Jersey Reservoir Has Dark Past

By James Donahue

Since it came into existence following the construction of two large dams, Round Valley Reservoir in New Jersey’s Clinton Township has become well known as a great place to fish for trout. It also has gained a nickname as the state’s "Bermuda Triangle" because of the six fishermen who have gone missing there.

The dams were completed in the 1960s, and the reservoir, now covering 2,000 acres and plunging to a cold depth of 180 feet, has been open to sports fishing since 1972. Since then, six fishermen have gone strangely missing after their small boats capsized or they were last seen walking at the water’s edge. A seventh man drowned but his body was recovered.

The only thing ever found of any of them was the skeletal remains of a human foot snagged on a fisherman’s hook there earlier this year. All six men just "went missing" and were never found, even though authorities went so far as to search the water with a submarine in 2006.

The reservoir’s first victims were Thomas Trimblett, of North Arlington, and his fishing partner Christopher Zajaczkowski, o Jersey City, who tumbled from their 12-foot aluminum boat when it capsized on May 4, 1973, less than a year after the reservoir was opened to the public for fishing.

Two more men, Craig Stier, 18, and Andrew Fasanella, 20, both of Trenton, went missing on March 15, 1977 while canoeing along the north shore. Their canoe washed ashore a few days later. They were not in it.

The next victims were John Kubu of Rahway and Albert Lawson of Linden who disappeared on a fishing trip on March 18, 1989. Lawson’s body was recovered in 1993.

The reservoir’s most recent victim was Jeffrey Moore, 27, of Ringwood, who was last seen leaving to fish on October 22, 1993. A companion, Raymond Barr, 26, was rescued by a nearby boater who saw him struggling in the water. Their boat had capsized.

While the deaths and disappearances have generated a myth about the reservoir, local authorities say they can explain the phenomenon. They say the cold deep water has a tendency to pull the bodies down and the fishermen and canoists capsized because their boats were too small for conditions.

While the water in the reservoir is not as big as the Great Lakes, it does lie in a valley where the winds frequently pick up in mid-day, sometimes reaching speeds of 40 miles per hour. That generates waves that can be several feet high, enough to capsize any boat 14 feet or smaller.

Because of the danger, the state Marine Services Bureau has placed strobe lights along the shore that flash when the wind is up and the water is getting choppy. Fishermen need to take heed when they see the lights and head for shore.