Northampton rowers report gangway section stolen from Connecticut River

  • Divers Bert McCasland, left, and Jim Straub, both of At The Water's Edge scuba facility in Westfield, exit the Connecticut River April 11, 2018 after searching waters up to 36 feet deep for a metal gangway that was ripped from its base by ice jams during the winter. They found a small mangled piece of the gangway 25 feet below the surface. Paradise City Dragon Boat coach and Northampton Community Rowing volunteer Betsy Powell and rower Nora Blake of Northampton look on from a safety launch, at back. SARAH CROSBY

  • Reba Knickerbocker, executive director of Northampton Community Rowing, left, hands a surface marker buoy to diver Bert McCasland of At The Water's Edge scuba facility in Westfield April 11, 2018 at the Connecticut River Greenway Park in Northampton. McCasland, and fellow diver Jim Straub, at right, searched waters up to 36 feet deep for a metal gangway that was ripped from its base, at top left, by ice jams during the winter. The divers found a small mangled piece of the gangway 25 feet below the surface. SARAH CROSBY

Published: 7/18/2018 2:25:41 PM

NORTHAMPTON — When ice jams on the Connecticut River started moving this spring, the frozen masses tore away and sunk a 60-foot suspended walkway on the river, much to the chagrin of Northampton Community Rowing club members, who used the gangway to reach their docks.

After scuba divers mounted an unsuccessful recovery mission in April, a boater stumbled across the aluminum gangway in early June — still intact and still recoverable, submerged in 6 feet of water.

However, the rowing club’s happiness was short-lived, as its recovery efforts have seemingly been foiled yet again.

The rowing club and the marine recovery company it employed say that one of three, 20-foot sections of the gangway has gone missing in the middle of recovery efforts. For them, the signs point to one conclusion: the section was stolen.

“It just can’t disappear like that,” said Ken Kubic, who runs Pioneer Valley Marine Recovery. Kubic was using his boat with a crane attached to remove the gangway. After finishing work on Friday, he returned Tuesday to find the section missing.

“Whoever took it had to have taken it on Saturday, Sunday or Monday,” he said.

Kubic said he had removed many of the bolts holding the gangway together, but that the handrails were still bolted together, keeping the gangway in one piece.

“This gangway is upside down and the handrails that are on the bottom were still bolted together. So this thing was still attached,” he said, adding that there was no high-water event or other situation over the weekend that could have separated the missing section. “There’s just no natural things that could have made it get separated with 10 bolts on the hand rails.”

What’s more, Kubic said, the section probably weighed around 500 pounds, meaning that somebody would have had to know what they were doing to successfully pull it out of the water.

Reba Knickerbocker, the executive director of Northampton Community Rowing, said she has filed a report with the Northampton Police Department.

Knickerbocker said she thinks somebody might try to use the gangway section for their own purposes on the river, though Kubic also raised the possibility of somebody scrapping the aluminum section for money.

Several groups use the gangway to get to the docks where they can launch their boats, including All Out Adventures, a nonprofit that provides access to the river for people with physical disabilities, according to Knickerbocker.

“It really just basically takes away part of the resource that we’re trying to provide for the community,” Knickerbocker said. “Not having the gangway has affected all of these community organizations that are trying to make the river accessible to people.”

Dorrie Brooks, a rowing club board member and architect, had previously estimated that a new gangway would cost as much as $20,000.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at

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