December 13, 2020
MANCHESTER TOWNSHIP, NJ (OCEAN)–Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer and Manchester Township Chief of Police Lisa Parker announced that on December 12, 2020, at approximately 8:30 p.m., Officers from the Manchester Township Police Department responded to Heritage Minerals Mine, also known as ASARCO, on Route 70 in Whiting, for a report of a motor vehicle accident with a submersion. Responding Officers spoke to a group of people who were driving Utility Terrain Vehicles (UTV’s), the group related to the Officers that a UTV had entered the lake at the center of the property, causing the driver and the passengers to be submerged in the lake.
The UTV and one of the passengers, a 62 year-old James Grover, Howell, did not resurface. The other passengers and members of the group attempted to locate Mr. Grover but were unsuccessful. Manchester Township Police and members of the Manchester, Ridgeway and Whiting Volunteer Fire Companies conducted an underwater dive search and rescue operation and located the UTV overturned and submerged in 25 feet of water. Mr. Grover was attached to the UTV by his safety harness. Mr. Grover was removed from his safety harness and life saving measures were performed by Manchester Township Emergency Medical EMT’s and Robert Wood Johnson Paramedics. Mr. Grover succumbed to his injuries; a suspected drowning, and was pronounced dead at the scene.
“Chief Parker and I would like to commend the heroic efforts of the Manchester Volunteer Fire Company, Ridgeway Volunteer Fire Company, Whiting Volunteer Fire Company, Manchester Township Emergency Medical Services, Robert Wood Johnson Paramedics, New Jersey State Police Aviation Unit, Ocean County Sheriff’s Office, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office and the Ocean County Medical Examiner’s Office, “ Prosecutor Billhimer stated.
“This is an active and ongoing investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Vehicular Homicide Unit, Manchester Township Police Traffic Safety Unit and the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit,” Prosecutor Billhimer concluded.
The Manchester Township Police Department would like to remind the public that the Heritage Minerals or “ASARCO” site is private property. It is closed for recreational and/or other use and it is a criminal offense to enter or remain on the property. In the interest of public safety, the Manchester Township Police urges everyone to obey the “No Trespassing” signs posted at the site. Trespassers are subject to hefty fines and penalties up to and including incarceration for being on the property.
Originally operated by ASARCO (American Smelting and Refining Company), Inc., the property was sold to and subsequently operated by Heritage Minerals until the cessation of mining operations in the early 1980’s. As a former mining site, the property consists of 7,000 acres that connect the eastern section of the township off of Route 37 to the western section, off of Route 70. During its years of operation, the land was mined so deeply that numerous bodies of water often referred to as ‘lakes’ formed. These ‘lakes’ which are actually groundwater aquifers, litter the landscape on the site. Seemingly unassuming, these bodies of water offer many dangers.
Because the lakes were formed as a result of the mining operation, they do not have stable bottoms or shore lines, the way naturally occurring lakes do. The banks are very unpredictable and dangerously unstable. Those entering the water will quickly realize that after taking a few steps in the soft, unstable sand that the shoreline ‘shelf’ quickly drops off to depths that exceed 60 feet. Some estimates have the largest ‘lake’ on the property as being up to 300 feet deep.
Making matters worse, a recent lack of rain has exposed a greater area of the shoreline shelf putting those near the water perilously close to the steep drop off. Furthermore, unsuspecting vehicle operators and other individuals, including bathers, and families with small children are faced with a higher risk of danger in this exposed area because of its potential to collapse without warning. Under no circumstance should anyone walk or drive on this exposed shelf or approach or enter these waters.
Because these ‘lakes’ are not fed by any streams but rather by a deep underground source, the water is clear but very cold. These ‘lakes’ are filled with mineral-laden spring water from the underground aquifer and as such buoyancy is reduced. Additionally, the water is also much colder, which can result in a swimmer, even an accomplished one, tiring much faster. The characteristics of these ‘lakes’ to include unstable shoreline shelves and water composition have been attributed to several drownings which have occurred on the property.
Enhanced patrols of the area will be in effect this Labor Day Weekend and a strict “no warning” enforcement policy remains in place. Additionally, further criminal charges may result from operating recreational vehicles or lighting bonfires on the property.