Putnam County Sheriff Donald B. Smith reports that a search is underway for a man who went missing yesterday afternoon (Sunday, November 19th) while scuba diving in the Town of Southeast.
Mr. Robert Thomas, aged 48, of Jersey City, New Jersey, went diving Sunday afternoon in waters at the site of the former Tilly Foster Mine (also sometimes referred to as Simon’s Quarry), located off Old Mine Road in the Town of Southeast. Mr. Thomas is described as a very experienced technical diver who has gone diving in the mine many times in the past.
On yesterday’s outing, Mr. Thomas was at the mine with two diving colleagues, a male and a female. Mr. Thomas dove into the water at about noon, and the other man went in about an hour later. The woman remained on the surface. The other male diver surfaced at about 3:00 p.m., but Mr. Thomas did not emerge.
At around 3:50 p.m., the Sheriff’s Office received a telephone call from Mr. Thomas’ girlfriend in Queens, who reported that Mr. Thomas had gone diving at the mine and was overdue for a party at her house. She requested that the Sheriff’s Office check on his welfare. A sheriff’s deputy patrolled to the mine and located Mr. Thomas’ colleagues, who apprised the deputy that Mr. Thomas was late in surfacing from his dive, given his air supply.
The Sheriff’s Office called for assistance of dive teams from the New York State Police and the Brewster and Mahopac Falls Volunteer Fire Departments to search for Mr. Thomas. The Putnam County Bureau of Emergency Services and the Brewster Volunteer Ambulance Corps also responded to the scene.
The search for Mr. Thomas is continuing, with dive teams using sophisticated sonar equipment to aid in probing the mine. The area being searched is large, with the mine shafts having underwater depths ranging from about 175 to 600 feet and several side tunnels branching off.