DA's office calls fatal canoe mishap a 'tragic accident'


STOCKBRIDGE -- The death of an Alford man in a canoe mishap on the Housatonic River over the weekend remains under investigation pending an autopsy report.

"At this point, it appears to have been a tragic accident," according to Berkshire District Attorney spokesman Frederick Lantz. "There does not appear to be anything suspicious at this time about the incident."

State Police Detective Brian Berkel, assigned to the DA's office as part of the CPAC (Crime Prevention and Control) unit, is handling the investigation.

Following a search-and-rescue effort by at least 60 public safety officers from 2:30 until 11:30 on Saturday morning, the body of Rupert Norris Vonbockbrader, 21, of Green River Road in Alford was recovered shortly downstream from the spot where the canoe capsized in the vicinity of Butler Road and Glendale Middle Road.

Berkel was at the scene during the rescue effort and notified the victim's family following the recovery.

As many as four of Vonbockbrader's friends had taken turns in pairs of two riding in the canoe, Stockbridge Police Chief Richard "Rick" Wilcox said. Peter Mays, 25, of Great Barrington; Sergio Delmolino, 19, of Stockbridge; Galen Grove, 19, of Monterey; and Lincoln Lepine, 22, of Stockbridge assisted rescue personnel at the scene, said Wilcox.

Barbara Bockbrader, the victim's mother, told The Eagle in a brief interview on Monday morning that she has been in contact with her son's friends over the weekend.

Bockbrader noted that most people knew her son as Rupert Norris.

Bockbrader praised Wilcox for his comment to The Eagle in the immediate aftermath of the accident. "It was really tragic," he stated. "It was a bunch of young kids intending to have a good time."

Mays, Lepine, Grove and Delmolino could not be reached for comment on Monday morning.

According to the police report, Mays had called police for help from a nearby house on Glendale Road immediately after the accident. He was then transported to Berkshire Medical Center by Lee Ambulance, where he was treated for exposure and hypothermia before being released.

Stockbridge Police Officer Rosario Messina was the first responder to the call for help. Taking part in the massive search, rescue and recovery operation were the Stockbridge, Lenox and New Marlborough fire departments, which brought boats to the scene, the Berkshire County Dive Team, the state police led by Trooper Berkel, State Environmental Police and a State Police Air Wing helicopter that was deployed from Westover Air Base.

Members of the dive team located the body not far from the spot where the canoe had overturned. Lenox and Lee Ambulance squads both responded to the scene.

To contact Clarence Fanto:
cfanto@yahoo.com or (413) 637-2551.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto


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