Lehigh Valley

Allentown officials: Think twice before swimming in pond

Allentown officials: Think twice before swimming in pond

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Officials are raising safety concerns following a man's death while swimming in a pond in Allentown.

Matthew Ruch, 24, of Allentown, died Tuesday while swimming in a pond near the South Mountain Reservoir. Authorities said a group of friends was using a rope swing to go into the water.

The death was ruled an accidental drowning.

While the water may be a tempting place to cool off, emergency officials urge you to think twice before swimming there.

Allentown fire Captain John Christopher showed 69 News the dangers in the water and on the land at the rope swing.

"It's marked the launching point," he said, while standing near the wooden platforms people use to swing off the rope into the water. "Just falling off this platform, you're in a lot of trouble. You really have no safeguards out here, no lifeguards. The condition of the water, as you can see, there's absolutely no visibility."

Ruch swung off the rope into the water, started swimming, then started to struggle and went under, authorities said.

His friends tried to help him, but it was too late. Divers later recovered his body.

The Allentown Fire Department dive team just happens to train in that water.

"Been in here over the past 15 years many times. Again, I can tell you the bottom is only about 15 to 20 feet at its deepest point that we've been at," said Christopher. "It's covered with roots. There's debris down there. You really have no idea what's been thrown in there over the years. With the visibility of the water, there's really no way of telling if it's three feet or 10 feet that you're landing in."

Officials said they can't stress enough the importance of swimming at a designated swimming location with lifeguards.

"If you want to go to the water, go to the pool," Christopher said.

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