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Dive team called to find Rudolph’s missing bells in Delaware River

This article was originally published on Lehigh Valley Live.

Members of the Garden State Underwater Recovery Unit took to the Delaware River Sunday afternoon to give children a lesson in water safety while searching for bells that allegedly fell into the freezing water during Santa Claus’ test flight this past week over the Lehigh Valley.

Saint Nick called on the Milford, Hunterdon County-based dive team when Rudolph noticed his collar adorned with magical bells was missing from his neck, said Lt. Frank Nester, a member of the team. The bells help Rudolph, along with his glowing nose, guide Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve, Nester said.

“Santa knows everyone needs to be careful venturing out near water ... cold water is dangerous,” Nester said. “So he enlisted the help of the dive team.”

Three divers began the search shortly after noon Sunday and within 10 minutes recovered the collared bells and gave them to Santa, who was waiting at the Phillipsburg boat ramp. The bells were found at the bottom of the river between Easton and Phillipsburg. The water temperature at the time of the dive was 45 degrees, according to Nester.

The dive team dubbed the expedition the “Save Christmas Operation.” The importance of the mission, they said, also was to let children know the importance of water safety at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has prompted many families to embark on outdoor adventures this winter. No one should ever be in water without a proper life jacket or flotation device, Nester said.

“There is no safe ice,” he said. “Everyone should be very careful venturing out in the winter time.”

Since 1960, the all-volunteer water-rescue and dive-recovery team has responded to hundreds of water-related emergencies, rescued trapped flood victims from homes and cars, recovered drowning victims, assisted law enforcement agencies with underwater evidence searches and provided water-safety assistance at numerous community events. Team members teach water and ice rescue and boating classes to the public and other public safety agencies, as well as offer instruction on water safety to local schools upon request.

Asked what Santa plans to do now that he has the bells, Nester said he was immediately heading back to outfit his sleigh. After all, we are 12 days away from Christmas.

“He’s getting ready and making sure all the reindeer are ready to fly on Christmas Eve,” Nester said.


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