Water hazard of Capsizing Harvester Removed from Lake Hopatcong

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As the follow-up to the video posted on Thursday the following outlines more of the facts of the death of Curtis R. Mulch on June 24, 2020, and the efforts that went into saving his life and the final efforts from the Department of Environmental Protection (NJ DEP) to remove the submerged Weed Harvester from Lake Hopatcong.

The Tragic Accident:

Due to State Budget issues the Weed Harvesters had been grounded so far in 2020, so as the first one headed to Crescent Cove to start operations the celebration was short-lived before it was learned that the Harvester flipped over in the cove.

The operator of the Harvester was Curtis Mulch, a 68-year-old resident of nearby Roxbury who is a very seasoned 10-year veteran of these vehicles. And these vehicles are well maintained and operated by the NJ DEP who also has countless years of experience maintaining and ensuring these vehicles that are used thoughtout the summers are kept in top shape.

Attempted Heroic Effort to Save his Life:

The capsizing of the Harvester was seen by a local resident who immediately informed the Hopatcong Police Department, which can make it anywhere within town within just a few minutes.

Understanding they only had a few minutes to respond, without hesitation seven Hopatcong Police Officers jumped into the water and swam the 20 – 30 yards to the overturned Harvester to see if they could pull Curtis Mulch from the operator’s cage that is normally on the top of the vessel.

After the officers attempted rescue efforts failed, row-boats and other methods were used to continue the search before air and sea units quickly arrived from around the area.

Submerged Harvester Created a Hazard:

weed harvester hazard in waterWhile covered in booms now - Water Hazard was almost invisible from the surfaceFor over a week the submerged Harvester lay in Crescent Cove barely visible to the high-speed boats and Jet Skis on the lake, with no Lights or Water Buoys to make the location. During the July 1, 2020, Council Meeting the Mayor of Hopatcong Michael Francis read into the record a letter to our State Senator stating that the lack of action by the DEP was inexcusable. The next day on July 2, 2020, the DEP arrived and after several hours of work were able to flip the vessel and haul it back for more investigation.

Work on flipping a Top Heavy Weed Harvester:

Different than most boats, Weed Harvester are very top-heavy with cages and heavy equipment on the top of the boat. Using two patrol boats and a strong pull pontoon boat the DEP was able to finally flip the boat after several hours of work. As they worked, they used all of the tools of the trade to help absorb any fluids to absorb anything that may be leaking from the boat.


According to his nephew Chris Mulch, the following picture shows his uncle operating a similar Harvester on Lake Hopatcong several years ago.

weed harvester removed

Obituary of Curtis R. Mulch - Leber-Lakeside Funeral Home

Curtis R. Mulch of Landing passed away suddenly on Wednesday June 24, 2020.He was 68.

Born in Mt. Kisko NY, he grew up in Morristown. He lived in Northwood NJ prior to moving to Landing in 1983.

Curtis owned and operated Curt's Sunoco in Mt. Freedom from the early 80's to 2004, when he retired. He then began working for Lake Hopatcong.

He enjoyed boats, cars, motorcycles, yard work projects, history, the outdoors and John Wayne movies.

Beloved husband of Jean (Wescott) Mulch. Devoted father of Curtis Mulch and Kelley Mulch Bressette (Mark). Loving grandfather of Aiden, Evan and Colton Bressette. Dear brother of Craig, Charles, Clyde and Chris Mulch, Colleen Mueller and Catherine Baker. Also survived by many nieces and nephews.

Curtis's Life Celebration will be held on Tuesday June 30 from 4:00PM to 7:00PM in the funeral home. A Prayer Service will begin at 6:30PM.

For those desiring memorial donations may be made to the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center, 100 Madison Ave. Morristown, NJ or to a charity of choice.


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