Hunting Accident File > Safe Hunting?: > 2008

NJ: Police find 2nd hunter's body

Police find 2nd hunter's body
(Published: Saturday, February 16, 2008)

State Police on Friday found the second of three hunters missing in the marshes of western Fairfield Township. Searchers found the body of Zdzislaw "Jerry" Piorkowski, 59, of Philadelphia, at about 12:50 p.m. on a tributary of Back Creek more than a half-mile from where his boat was discovered Sunday night.

State Troopers Will-iam Tirotti and Jeffrey Reitz were surveying the marshes in a shallow-water boat when they realized the tides were lower than they had been for most of the week, according to State Police.

"They realized the tide was real low, and they wanted to take advantage of that," State Police Sgt. Steve Jones said. "They called in the State Police helicopter and within five minutes they spotted the body."

An initial recovery attempt failed.

On the second attempt, a state trooper was lowered to the water and was able to retrieve Piorkowski.

Piorkowski was a Polish immigrant who established a travel agency in Philadelphia that catered to Poles when their home country was controlled by Communists. He later launched a Polish variety show on Philadelphia public television, and was well-known within the immigrant community.

The last of the three hunters, Jozef Karamuz, 62, a surgeon from Huntington Valley, Pa., remains missing.

Searchers found Jan Toryft, 45, of Princeton, on Sunday night about 200 yards from the group's 12-foot boat. A medical examiner determined Toryft died from exposure.

The three hunters set out last Saturday at 2 p.m. to hunt geese and were expected to return at 7 p.m. Authorities began a search the next day after learning of the missing men.

State Police initially believed the group's boat may have been intentionally overturned, with their gear - including flotation devices and a spotlight - stowed beneath it. That view is now in doubt, due to potential disturbance of the scene, according to Sgt. David Bodine of the State Police Marine Unit of the Bivalve barracks in Commercial Township.

Bodine confirmed that searchers found a cell phone with one of the men, although he declined to say which. No phone calls for help appear to have been made, Bodine said. Despite the area's rural nature, cell phones do work there, he said.

Both men were found without boots. They could've intentionally removed their boots while trying to swim, or they could have lost them in mud that, when thawed, as it was last Saturday, can swallow a person up past their waist. The muddy marshland could have made travel very difficult to any survivor of an accident who was trying to navigate back home at night.

"The mud is between ankle-deep and waist-deep," Bodine said. "You step in, and you just go straight down. Unless you've experienced it, you just don't understand it."

Police continue to investigate and have not determined what accident may have befallen the men or how Toryft, who was found on another tributary off Back Creek, and Piorkowski could have been found so far apart.

Bodine anticipated stepped-up searches for Karamuz in the wake of Piorkowski's recovery, at least for a few days. The U.S. Coast Guard cut short its search efforts earlier this week.

To e-mail Daniel Walsh at The Press: [email protected] 

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