Ocean County drownings at beach & mining ‘blue hole’, police say
Ocean County authorities have confirmed the deaths of two different people in what appeared to be separate drowning incidents Saturday.
The first involved Toms River Police, who responded around 6 a.m. to reports of a woman's body that washed ashore in the Ocean Beach section of the township.
Police identified the body as that of 43-year-old Jennifer Jack, of Lavallette.
The Ocean County Medical Examiner’s Office determined Jack's cause of death to be drowning and the Ocean County Prosecutor's office said there was "no evidence to suggest there was any foul play or criminal activity involved in this unfortunate incident," while the death did remain under investigation.
Then on Saturday night, around 8:30 p.m., Manchester Township Police responded to Heritage Minerals Mine, also known locally as ASARCO and "Crystal Lake" in the Whiting section of the township, for a report of a motor vehicle accident with a submersion.
Officers spoke to a group of people there who had been driving Utility Terrain Vehicles (UTVs), who said that one of the UTVs had entered the water, plunging a driver and passengers beneath the surface.
Only one of the passengers, 62-year-old James Grover, of Howell, did not make it back to shore, the group said to police.
Township Police and members of the Manchester, Ridgeway and Whiting Volunteer Fire Companies carried out an underwater dive search and rescue and found the UTV overturned in about 25 feet of water — with Grover still strapped to the vehicle by his safety harness.
First responders attempted CPR but Grover was pronounced dead at the scene, according to Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer.
Despite being dubbed a "lake" by locals, the groundwater aquifer on the sprawling 7,000 acre property is one of many such "blue holes" left behind by years of mining around New Jersey, which present hazardous conditions.
Unstable sand and shoreline shelves that plummet unpredictably to depths of more than 60 feet, and notably cold water temperatures from a deep underground source pose dangers that have led to such tragedy before, including back in July, when a 23-year-old Union County man drowned.
Billhimer said the suspected drowning of Grover also remained an active and ongoing investigation on Sunday.
The identities of the other people involved in the UTV incident were not disclosed publicly by police.
Unlike All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs), which are normally built for just one rider, UTVs often can seat between two and four passengers.