A birthday celebration on a rented pontoon boat turned deadly on Saturday, June 1. Avinash Kuna, 32, of Parsippany was celebrating with friends in Henderson Cove on Lake Hopatcong.

He jumped into the water for a swim, according to his friend, Jay Majeti. Although Kuna was wearing a life vest, he screamed that something was pulling him underwater and his life jacket came off.

“He started flailing and was gasping for air,” wrote Majeti. “We tried to help with the life vest but unfortunately he couldn’t reach to it. Understanding that the situation is getting worse, one of our friends jumped into the water with a life vest but we had to pull him out since his vest came off too. Avinash started to drown.”

Kuna’s friends called 911 for help. Multiple rescue boats, divers, and a helicopter attempted to locate Kuna, but the search was hampered by weeds and weather. After three days of searching, police found his body in the lake shortly after 6 p.m. on Monday, June 3.

Jefferson Township Fire Company #2’s new Defender 2 fireboat ready to join the search for the missing man overboard on Lake Hopatcong on Saturday, June 1, 2019. The fireboat is equipped with sonar. (Photo courtesy of Wayne Siver)
A helicopter is shown flying towards Lake Hopatcong to join the search for the missing man overboard on Saturday, June 1, 2019. (Photo: April Leaver)

A GoFundMe page has been created by Majeti to offset funeral costs and help bring Kuna’s body back to his native India. “We thank you all for your prayers and support so far and request you to please continue to share the campaign to help Avinash’s family,” wrote Majeti.

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