New Jersey dad drowns while rescuing his three children caught in river, police say

A New Jersey dad drowned Wednesday while rescuing his three children who became “distressed” while swimming in the Millstone River, according to local police.

Rolando Camarillo-Cholula, 42, drowned after pulling his three children — ages 13, 11 and 8 — to shallow waters. The children were swimming in a 39-mile-long tributary of the Raritan River, according to the Franklin Township Police.

The call to police came in just before 2:15 p.m., when someone reported “a man in the water, with three children on shore” of Canal Road between Coppermine and Old Georgetown roads in Franklin Township, about 43 miles southwest of New York City.

When police arrived at the scene, they found the kids on the shore but could not find Camarillo-Cholula, according to the information released by Franklin Township Police, which added that the father lost his balance after he waded into the waters in a bid to help his kids.

Divers from the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office recovered Camarillo-Cholula a little over three hours later, just before 5:30 p.m., police said.

Emergency rescue crews pulled the body Rolando Camarillo-Cholula out from a New Jersey canal on Wednesday evening after responding to a distress call.
Emergency rescue crews pulled the body Rolando Camarillo-Cholula out from a New Jersey canal on Wednesday evening after responding to a distress call.NBC 4

Emergency medical personnel treated the children at the scene, according to police. An investigation into what led to the incident is underway, police said.

This comes as at least the third reported fatal drowning in New Jersey in the past three months. In May, a 15-year-old boy drowned at Sandy Hook Beach B, an unguarded area where swimming is not allowed. In June, New York City firefighter Mark Batista, 39, of Teaneck, New Jersey, drowned at the Jersey Shore while trying to save his teenage daughter — who survived the incident — after she was caught in rough waters. Also in June, 18-year-old Victor Rodriguez died by drowned in a Pitman lake during a scavenger hunt.

In the wake of Camarillo-Cholula’s death, Franklin Township authorities urged locals to remember that “causeways, lakes, and all waterways can hide dangers like hidden currents, sudden depths, and cold shock,” and to look out for signs in the area of the incident indicating areas and activities to avoid.

Lieutenant Vincent Wilson of the Franklin Township Police Department said that swimming is not prohibited in the Millstone River.

Drowning is the leading cause of death for kids between the ages of 1 – 4, and men make up nearly 80% of people who die from drownings, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can happen in seconds and often occurs silently, and can be prevented by wearing a life jacket, monitoring weather conditions before swimming in natural waters and learning basic swimming skills, the CDC says.

There are more than 4,000 fatal drownings per year nationwide, according to the CDC. New Jersey has one of the lower rates nationwide, with 0.77 unintentional drowning deaths per 100,000 people, CDC data shows.