A worker died after being trapped underneath a weed harvester on Lake Hopatcong on Wednesday, according to officials. The man, who authorities identified as Curtis Mulch, was operating the harvester when something caused it to capsize. The accident happened in Crescent Cove. Mulch, 68, was a resident of Landing.
The emergency call reached the Hopatcong Fire Department at 10:28 a.m. on Wednesday, Fireman Alex Rodriguez said. State police divers recovered the body after 2 p.m.
Two state police divers searched for the harvester operator and a barge brought a crane out to the scene to tilt the overturned harvester up slightly. At that point, they brought the body out of the water and onto the Jefferson Township Fire Boat.
Several attempts were made to right the harvester. Weeds were pulled out from under it to lighten the load, but the crane could not budge it more than a few inches. Barge operators placed floatation markers around it to keep people away.
Rodriguez said Crescent Cove is eight feet deep at its deepest point but in many areas a person of average height can stand up. It is very mucky at the bottom, Rodriguez noted.
Hopatcong Mayor Mike Francis said the harvesting was going well on the first day.
“They cleaned a whole area,” the mayor said, noting he had just spoken to chief harvester operator Mike Coaderio when he heard of the accident on the lake. Crescent Cove is shallow and the water is still and has had a serious weed problem most years, which is why the harvesting started there. Francis has been searching for alternatives for weed control.
The state police marine division is continuing the investigation.