ITHACA, N.Y. — About two dozen people were swimming or cliff jumping at Ithaca’s Second Dam the day after a 20-year-old man drowned while jumping into the water Sunday evening.
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Police said Eric Richardson died after he jumped into the water and did not come back to the surface. Efforts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful.
On Monday afternoon, the mood at second dam was not cautious or concerned about the recent death:
“Jump! Jump! Jump!” people shouted as two blonde teen girls hesitated to leap about 30-feet into the water.
“I’m jumping again! Take another video,” a teen shouted at a friend on a nearby rock.
“I’ll be right behind you. I promise,” Justin Fichera, 19, told a teen friend, just before she leapt into the water.
Fichera said he jumped into the water Monday and has done it several times in the past, even hitting a log near the bottom a few times.
“If you jump in the right spot, you’ll kind of kick it,” he said. “It’s still kind of scary every time, but it’s fun.”
He said he isn’t worried about getting hurt. He and other jumpers said they think the technique of leaping as far away as they can from the rock wall prevents injuries.
He said he’d heard of Richardson’s death yesterday, but assumed it was a freak accident because details about the incident have not been released by officials.
Another jumper, 18-year-old Emily Buis, said she also assumed it was some kind of rare accident.
She jumped into the dam from about 30-feet up.
“I’m just not afraid of that kind of stuff,” she said, adding that she’s a lifeguard and would hesitate to jump into the water if she weren’t a strong swimmer.
Her friend Gabby Hood, 22, said they were jumping into the water, despite hearing about the death, because it’s hard to see so many people jump without injuries and not feel tempted to join.
She said she’s seen at least 100 people jump from the cliffs in one afternoon and has never seen anyone get injured.
She read about Richardson’s death before going to second dam and wondered if there would be increased police or ranger presence in the area. She said in the two hours she was at the dam, she hadn’t seen any officials warning people to stay away or not to jump in the water.
She said, “I just didn’t know what to expect.”
Lt. Dan Donahue, of the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office, said he responded to the drowning Sunday evening.
He said at least 300 people were at the dam when he arrived with other officers and assisting agencies.
He said in an email, “We do not as a department patrol the Second Dam area on a permanent basis. We have targeted dates in the area where we provide deputies to be in the (area) to enforce the violations and local ordinances.”
Gorge rangers who patrol the area have no law enforcement authority and are mostly confined to handing out informational brochures on the dangers of swimming in the gorges.
They warned people against jumping into the gorge within the same hour Eric Richardson died.
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