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Cliff Jumping Death

Colchester, Vermont - July 12, 2007

The 50-foot-high cliffs at Niquette Bay State Park are a popular spot for diving into Lake Champlain.

Emergency responders from Colchester Technical Rescue said they had never responded to a drowning there, but suspected it was only a matter of time. It happened Thursday night.

"Call came in about 10 minutes of 6:00 to Colchester dispatch from multiple cell phones calling 911, indicating a person had jumped off a cliff over at Niquette Bay State Park," explained Mike Cannon of Colchester Technical Rescue.

The diver, identified as 23-year-old Kurtis McKinstry of Colchester, didn't surface.

Three rescue boats from Colchester and one from the U.S. Coast Guard responded to the area. In all, nine divers searched the water for the victim, ultimately finding him 19 feet underwater. Rescuers said visibility was good, even with this week's heavy rain. They found him within 10 minutes of arriving on the scene, but said he had been underwater for about 35 minutes.

"We train in that area," Cannon said. "We have been getting reports of minor injuries in that location from state park personnel, so we pre-planned and anticipated for a day like today."

McKinstry was in cardiac arrest when rescuers brought him to shore. He was transported to Fletcher Allen Health Care, where he was later pronounced dead.

While this was the first fatality these rescuers had responded to in the area, Cannon said injuries are an inherent risk.

"If you don't enter the water correctly, which is the information we initially got, is that he might have entered the water at an odd angle, it usually results in a head injury or some type of impact that might render you unconscious. People need to keep that in mind when they're thinking about diving off large cliffs. You also have to worry about what's beneath the water's surface, whether there's a rock or some type of obstruction."

Kate Duffy - WCAX News

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