Park Chief Praises Lake Rescuers

Record Online

James Edwards prepares rowboats Monday at Morningside Park in Hurlyville, Edwards was one of several people that were struck by lightning during Sunday’s storm.

FALLSBURG — Morningside Park Manager Henry Lesczynski has worked there for 20 years — and for all those years he’s feared somebody would get hit by lightning on the lake.

He never kept his worry a secret. His workers kidded him about it, called him paranoid because it had never happened before. But after Sunday’s incident in which two people were seriously injured by a lightning strike while on the water, nobody is laughing at him now.

“I think everybody got a good eye-opening,” Lesczynski said. “It can happen.”

Laya Feiner, 23, of Lakewood, N.J., and her would-be rescuer, Devin Corbett, 20, of Loch Sheldrake, a park employee, were in stable condition Monday at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, police say.

Feiner’s condition improved overnight. She remains in critical-but-stable condition, Fallsburg police say. Corbett’s condition had also improved. The lightning strike partially blinded him; as of Sunday night, his vision was better, he was alert and stable and was expected to be discharged, police say.

According to park management, the events started around 3:15 p.m. as a thunderstorm approached. The town park rents four-seat rowboats, and the entire fleet of 22 was on the lake.

With darkening weather and rumbling thunder, the park set off a siren to alert boaters. The boats weren’t coming in fast enough, so lifeguards shouted into bullhorns to urge them in quickly.

Twenty of the boats got to shore safely, but one was obviously having trouble — Feiner’s boat was doing circles about 50 feet from shore. She was in the boat with a small child and a man. Another man was paddling a second boat to shore nearby.

A woman who knew Feiner’s party asked park employee Corbett to help them. He paddled out with the woman. They reached the boat and the toddler was passed over.

Immediately after the child was put in Corbett’s rescue boat, the sky exploded like a camera flash, square in their eyes.

Corbett collapsed in one boat. Feiner fell in the other boat.

The woman who went with Corbett to assist Feiner’s group jumped into the water only a few feet from shore and carried the child in safely.

A man pushed to shore the two boats in which Corbett and Feiner were lying.

Feiner wasn’t breathing. Corbett was breathing with trouble. Their faces were purple.

Lifeguards Kristen Sarno, Kayla Sunnekalb and Joseph Drobysh gave them CPR and got them breathing before paramedics arrived. Feiner and Corbett were taken to Catskill Regional Medical Center and later to Westchester Medical Center.

As if nothing had happened the day before, people came early Monday to rent boats.

Lesczynski turned them away, allowing no boats on the water in the morning. He was too busy getting straight the events that played out his nagging fears.

He was proud of his lifeguards, who probably saved two lives. He was annoyed that boats didn’t come in quickly with the first siren blast.

“Nobody wanted to get off the lake,” he said.