Delhi kayaker drowns in West Branch

A 21-year-old Delhi man drowned on the West Branch of the Delaware River on Tuesday after he fell from his kayak.

Around noon on Tuesday, according to a news release from the Delaware County Sheriff's Office, local first responders and police responded to Sherwood Bridge just south of the village of Delhi after a 911 call was made reporting a possible drowning. Donald Shamus had fallen from his kayak and been swept away by the current, a witness who was kayaking with Shamus told responders.

After searching for over an hour on foot and by helicopter, responders found Shamus about half a mile south of the confluence of the West Branch and Little Delaware rivers. An attempt was made to resuscitate Shamus while he was transported to O'Connor Hospital in Delhi, but it was unsuccessful. Shamus was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Steve Hood, assistant chief of Delhi Fire and EMS and deputy director of Delaware County Emergency Services, was one of dozens of first responders on the scene Tuesday afternoon. Hood said that the West Branch was running high after a series of recent rainstorms.

"With all the rain we've had, it's definitely running high and running fast," Hood said. "Especially all the rain they had in Stamford at the end of last week -- that's all the headwaters for the West Branch." 

Hood said that the river at its current elevated level would pose a challenge even to an experienced swimmer. 

"Normally, you can walk across the river in many places. Today, I wouldn't send anyone out to try it," he said.

Shamus was not wearing a life preserver when he fell into the river, according to the county sheriff's press release.

Responding to the scene along with county police and emergency management personnel were Delhi Fire and EMS; the Walton, Margaretville and Downsville Fire Departments; New York State Department of Environmental Conservation officers; the New York City Department of Environmental Protection's Aviation Division; SUNY Delhi university police and Delhi village police.