Video of the rescue as the boat goes out a second time and brings in a deer. Below, the two deer in the channel they created as they tried to escape. (Video and photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)


deer 022815 3One deer was rescued and another drowned after they fell through the ice on the Navesink River off Red Bank Saturday afternoon.

The dramatic rescue of a doe followed an all-out effort by local fire and first aid volunteers assembled on the dock of the Oyster Point Hotel, on the Red Bank side.

deer 022815The surviving deer, a doe, heads toward the rescue boat. Below, volunteers carrying the deer to dry land. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

deer 022815 4The drama began shortly after 3 p.m., when Cara Dorazio of Middletown spotted the deer from the passenger side of a car as she and her husband, Lucas, traveled northbound with their two children over the Route 35 Cooper Bridge.

One deer was in the water and one atop the ice, she said.

“We called the Red Bank police department and turned around, and by the time we got here [to the hotel], both were in the river,” Dorazio told redbankgreen.

Volunteer firefighters and rescue squads from Red Bank, Middletown and Fair Haven responded as the two deer traveled back and forth toward each riverbank, gradually creating an S-shaped channel in the ice about 30 yards long.

But their attempts to climb up onto the ice were fruitless.

Ex-Chief John Kardel of the Navesink Hook & Ladder in Middletown said the plan was to get a boat, manned by Jack Hueston and Mike Mittiga, of the Community Fire Company in Leonardo, into the channel the deer had created, and extend it to the Middletown bank, so that the deer could walk out of the river.

As the orange-suited rescuers chopped ice and poled the flat-bottomed boat across the ice toward the southern end of the channel, the two deer struggled to climb up onto the ice at the north end.

In the process, one drowned, and the other turned and traveled the length of the channel, toward the rescuers.

“The deer you could see obviously was in a lot of trouble, so it followed our boat to the dock,” Kardel told redbankgreen. “The deer was in very weak condition. She knew she was in trouble.”

Hueston and Mittiga got a rope around the deer’s neck and towed it to the hotel dock, where it was hoisted up by waiting volunteers.

The ice rescue was the second within two weeks for the Middletown volunteers. They pulled a 14-year-old girl from Sandy Hook Bay in Leonardo after she feel through the ice on February 17.

“We do training, good weather and bad weather, for this kind of situation,” Kardel told redbankgreen.

The deer was taken by ambulance to the Red Bank Veterinary Hospital.

“She is not injured but she is very cold,” a hospital spokesman said at 6 p.m. “So we’re just trying to get her up and walking.”

The rescue was “just extraordinary,” said Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna, who was on the scene. “It shows that we care about all lives, human and animal. It says a lot about the community.”