Overview of Joel Ariza
Joel Anthony Ariza launched his new boat under the Commodore Barry Bridge into the Delaware River approximately 2:00 AM on 10-30-09. He was accompanied by a friend. Per statement of friend on boat, they traveled from the ramp about 5 minutes into the river, when the engine stalled and boat started taking on dangerous quantities of water. Joel's friend jumped overboard and swam to shore. Joel stayed with his boat.
While swimming to shore, friend looked back and noted boat was nearly fully submerged; he estimated just 2' was above the water line. Friend estimated it took him one hour swimming to reach shore (sea wall) in the area of the former Chester Electric building. Joel was never seen again. Multiple searches of the area commenced by private citizens, boats, helicopters, the United State Coast Guard, New Jersey State Police T.E.M.S. Unit and the Chester PA police underwater search and recovery unit. Search protocol included surface survey, dragging river bottom, scuba and side-scan sonar. Search efforts continued on 10-31-09, terminating at 13:45 Hrs.
Joelâ€™s 14-16' partially submerged run-about pleasure boat bearing vessel bow number PA 991AA was subsequently located down-river on the banks of the Delaware River at Delaware Fox Point State Park, in Wilmington DE at 05:41 AM. The boat was located south of the Commodore Barry Bridge approximately 7.21 miles. The strong southbound tidal current had carried the boat into Delaware.