STOCKBRIDGE -- After a massive overnight search and rescue effort by at least 60 public safety officers that extended to midday, the body of an Alford man was recovered on Saturday following a canoe accident on the Housatonic River in the Glendale section of town.
Rupert Norris Vonbockbrader, 21, of Green River Road, Alford, was found dead after the canoe he was riding in with a friend tipped over shortly after 2 a.m., said Stockbridge Police Chief Richard "Rick" Wilcox, who was at the scene during the 10-hour rescue operation.
Vonbockbrader's companion, Peter Mays, 25, of Main Street, Great Barrington, had called police for help before Lee Ambulance transported him to Berkshire Medical Center, where he was released following treatment for exposure and hypothermia.
According to Wilcox, Stockbridge Police Officer Rosario Messina responded to an emergency call from 12 Glendale Road at 2:20 a.m. Mays had reached the home to phone for help after the canoe capsized in the area of Butler Road and Glendale Middle Road, downstream from the Norman Rockwell Museum. Messina had initially been asked to respond to what was described as a motor-vehicle accident.
Upon reaching the scene and learning that Vonbockbrader was missing, Messina alerted Berkshire County Sheriff's Dispatch, which called in area fire departments, state police and state environmental police units. A dive team was assembled quickly to search the river and the shoreline. The Stockbridge, Lenox and New Marlborough fire departments brought rescue boats to the scene, but the pre-dawn portion of the search did not turn up the victim.
After sunrise, the dive teams continued their efforts, aided by an aerial search conducted by a State Police Air Wing helicopter that was flown to the scene from Westover Air Force Base. At 11:30 a. m., Wilcox said, members of the dive team located the body not far from the spot where the canoe had tipped over. The victim's family was notified by state police Detective Brian Berkel.
Friends of Vonbockbrader and Mays who were on shore when the canoe overturned and who attempted to assist the rescue included Sergio Delmolino, 19, of Glendale Middle Road, Stockbridge, Galen Grove, 19, of Main Road, Monterey, and Lincoln Lepine, 22, of West Stockbridge Road in Stockbridge.
"It was really tragic," said Wilcox. "It was a bunch of young kids intending to have a good time."
The units that took part in the nine-hour rescue operation included Stockbridge Police, State Police, State Environmental Police, fire departments from Stockbridge, Lenox and New Marlborough, Lenox and Lee Ambulance squads and the Berkshire County Dive Team.
To contact Clarence Fanto:
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On Twitter: @BE_cfanto