BRISTOL — Post-parade Fourth of July festivities took a tragic turn in Bristol on Thursday afternoon. A 26-year-old Bristol man was swept away while swimming in the New Haven River between the twin bridges on Route 116 north of Bristol village.
Officials recovered the body at 10:15 a.m. on July 5. The victim was identified as Steven Orvis, 26, of Bristol.
Vermont State Police Lt. William Jenkins said a call came in to police at around 3 p.m. regarding a man who had been swept away from the Bartlett Falls swimming area in Bristol.
State police, Bristol Fire Department, Middlebury Technical Rescue and Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department officials responded to the scene, but were not successful in locating the man.
Brett LaRose, incident commander at the scene and first assistant chief of the Bristol Fire Department, told the Independent on Friday morning that the search and rescue operation led by the VSP dive team and Middlebury Technical Rescue had focused its efforts on the area behind Blaise’s Trailer Park on Rocky Dale Road, after witnesses told authorities that they had spied something in the water on Thursday afternoon.
Members of Middlebury Technical went out into the water Thursday afternoon in an attempt to locate the victim, according to a VSP statement, but a violent rainstorm forced them to suspend operations due to dangerous conditions.
LaRose reported that the operation began again at 7:40 a.m. on Friday morning. VSP Scuba, Middlebury Technical, and the Lincoln and Bristol fire departments were on scene.
By 9:30 a.m. responders had reported sighting the body in the water.
The VSP Scuba team and Middlebury rescuers performed a “surface recovery from Zodiac” procedure, recovering the body from a boat without rescuers entering the water, LaRose said.
The victim’s remains were transported to the Chief Medical Examiner’s office in Burlington for an autopsy.
State police are reminding everyone that due to the recent rainy weather, rivers and streams are much higher and more dangerous than they usually are this time of year. Extreme caution should be used when doing any activity around a waterway, and when in doubt, stay away from the water.
On his Facebook page, Orvis on Thursday posted from a mobile phone that read, “Happy 4th of July everyone. Enjoy your day and be safe.”
Under that, a visitor to the page wrote, “This post breaks my heart.”