Search continues for two men missing in Housatonic River in New Milford

Photo of Peter Yankowski

NEW MILFORD — Two fishermen went missing Wednesday night after they went into the Housatonic River at Bleachery Dam.

The search for the two men extended into Thursday evening, with neither having been found, as of around 5 p.m., according to authorities.

The search came almost a year to the day after two men from the Bronx drowned in the Housatonic at the Bulls Bridge Dam several miles north of where authorities were searching for the two fishermen Wednesday and Thursday.

Bleachery Dam sits just south of downtown New Milford, where the slow-moving waters that run alongside Youngs Field rush past the old Locks building. The dam is accessible down an overgrown dirt track off West Street gated with barbed wire.

A New Milford police boat, Newtown Underwater Search and Rescue and one inflatable search boat carrying Brookfield police dive team members could be seen slowly circling the waters just past the dam Thursday afternoon. Police were staged at the end of West Street, which ends in a private boat launch. The underwater dam is a popular spot for fishing and boating, but can have a dangerous current when the water runs high.

Wheeler said one of the men is 23-years-old, the other is 36. Police have not released the names of either man because one of the family members has not yet made contact with police.

New Milford Mayor Pete Bass said neither of the men missing is a town resident.

Police were first made aware of the incident at 8:31 p.m.

A witness told police one of the men slipped. When the other man went to help him, he also slipped and fell in.

A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said the agency’s Environmental Conservation police were requested to the scene around 9 p.m. Wednesday night “to help with a search for two fishermen who ended up in the Housatonic River.”

The DEEP team included a K9 search team. With nothing found, police suspended the search a few hours later, the spokesman said.

New Milford Mayor Pete Bass said the property near where the incident occurred is state land, and is supposed to be patrolled by DEEP. He said he reached out to the agency about the incident.

The search comes nearly a year to the day after two men from the Bronx, N.Y. went missing in the river upstream at the Bulls Bridge power plant. Both men were later found dead.

In April, a Danbury man fell and drowned while hiking at the Lovers Leap gorge down river from where the two men were reported missing Wednesday night.

In 2019, a 25-year-old Bronx woman drowned after going in the water at Bulls Bridge.

In response to the deaths, town officials have put up Jersey barriers at some parts of the river to keep people from particulary dangerous sections. The town also put up signs in both Spanish and English advising people that swimming is prohibited.

Some residents have suggested posting the names of people who drowned along the river to advise people of the danger.