By Ted Waddell
LIVINGSTON MANOR June 30, 2006 On June 28, Cattail Brook took a life, while the Willowemoc literally washed Livingston Manor away
State Police confirmed last yesterday that theyve found the body of a 15-year old girl last seen in her Livingston Manor house seconds before it was washed away by the rapidly rising waters of the Flood of 2006.
Jamie Bertholf, is the daughter of Bob Bertholf, a 30+year veteran of the local volunteer fire department.
As word of the tragedy spread throughout this hard-hit town, Bertholf was joined at the bridge crossing River Street, searching for his daughter among the shattered remains of his old wooden house piled up against the small bridge located downstream of where his family used to live.
"I heard the house went down, but before it went down, they were trying to get everybody out, and the little girl just panicked and she ran upstairs, and that's when the house went down," said Iris Riveria, a resident of Manor for the past 17 years.
"I'm just in shock," she added.
Harriet Hoag and Pam Knapp were among the scores of local residents and emergency service personnel who helped search for the missing teenager.
Walking along the buckled pavement of what used to be the town's Main Street, Hoag said, "We were just trying to look for the girl who's missing. . . . The house collapsed, and it's stuck on the bridge to our street [River Street]."
Jodie Hollenbeck has lived in Manor for 10 years. She was accompanied by Tiffany Cherry, 14, and 12-year-old Joseph Thomas as they looked over the damage.
"This is the worst disaster I've seen," she said. "Usually it doesn't hit us, but this time, God only knows what happened. . . . It really hit us."
"It's crazy," said Thomas, to which Cherry added, "It's terrible, and it's sad."
Captain Randy Hoag of the Livingston Manor Volunteer Fire Department has been a member of the local company for 30-some years.
"I never made it off River Street," he said. "It was so fast, the firehouse was under. . . . Everything was under.
"I was around for the '69 Flood. I was just a kid at the time, but the last two floods we had we thought were bad, but this has been terrible," he added.
Capt. Hoag said that in the wake of the last two floods to strike his community, officials held a series of public meetings, and some flood mitigation work was started.
"I don't care who you are, it's going to flood and you can't blame the officials for that," he said.
As part of the emergency services response, the Sparrowbush Fire Department Dive Rescue Team responded to Manor and was quickly involved in the search for the missing girl.
Under the direction of dive master Chris Morgan, the team tried to locate Bertholf among the debris of her shattered house using underwater lights and a thermal imaging camera but without success.
Later in the afternoon, the dive team responded to a reported flood emergency at Paradise Lake trailer park a few miles outside Manor.
"I've never seen a mass devastation like this before," said Michael Burkey, a firefighter with Hoos Truck #2 of Livingston Manor.
"We've never had water come down through our firehouse. We had about three feet of water come down off Shandelee into Main Street. We have people missing, but some people have been isolated from us."
As the hours passed, Bob Bertholf searched the remains of his house, a home that had been reduced to fragments roiling in the flood waters up against the River Street bridge, in hopes of finding his daughter.
As time moved along, Bertholf and his neighbors picked fragments of Jamie's life from the wreckage: a stuffed rabbit, clothes, a roller skate and a Christmas poster were soon piled up along the bridge.
At the scene, Bertholf was interviewed by NYS Police Investigators Vincent Boyd and Mike Kelly, assisted by Detective Jake Gorr of the Sullivan County Sheriff's Department.