MANCHESTER – The body of a 23-year-old Plainfield man was discovered on July 4 on the Heritage Mineral property where he was visiting the privately-owned 7,000-acre tract of land.
Edwin Caballero went missing between late in the day and his body was recovered submerged in a body of water commonly referred to as “Crystal Lake” on the following morning by members of the New Jersey State Police Technical Emergency and Mission Specialists (T.E.A.M.S.) unit.
Around 10 p.m. on July 4, members of the Manchester Township Police were dispatched to the “Crystal Lake” area of the Heritage Minerals property, more commonly known as ASARCO, American Smelting and Refining Company), Inc to investigate the report of a missing man who was later identified as Caballero.
Officers learned Caballero had been missing since between 5 and 6 p.m. He was reported to have last been seen near the shoreline of “Crystal Lake.”
At that time, family members were uncertain if Caballero had returned to the water, where he had been throughout the day or if he had walked into the nearby wooded area. As a result, several members of both the police department and the local volunteer fire departments searched the area.
The Brick Township Police Department’s Drone Unit assisted with the search along with members of the New Jersey State Police Aviation Unit. Despite an exhaustive search involving numerous resources, Caballero was not located.
Shortly after daybreak on July 5, investigative personnel resumed their search for Caballero. This included a search of “Crystal Lake by members of the New Jersey State Police Marine Services Unit.
Using advanced marine sonar, the Marine Services Unit located a body submerged in the lake approximately 16 feet below the waterline. The body was recovered by the NJ State Police Technical Emergency and Mission Specialists (T.E.A.M.S.) unit.
A preliminary investigation indicates that Caballero entered the water and accidentally drowned.
Also assisting with the investigations were members of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crime Unit and the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigations (CSI) Unit.
Anyone present who may have witnessed this incident is asked to contact Detective Christian Nazario of the Manchester Township Police Department’s Investigation Bureau at 732-657-2009 ext. 4221 or Detective John Carroll of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes Unit at 732-929-2027.
Originally operated by ASARCO, the property was sold to and subsequently operated by Heritage Minerals until the cessation of mining operations in the early 1980’s.
As a former mining site, the property consists of 7,000 acres that connect the eastern section of the township off of Route 37 to the western section, off of Route 70.
During its years of operation, the land was mined so deeply that numerous bodies of water often referred to as ‘lakes’ formed. These ‘lakes’ which are actually groundwater aquifers, litter the landscape on the site and these bodies of water offer many dangers.
A number of factors make entering these waters dangerous. Due to the lakes formed as a result of the mining operation, they do not have stable bottoms or shore lines, the way naturally occurring lakes do.
The banks are very unpredictable and dangerously unstable. Those entering the water will quickly realize that after taking a few steps in the soft, unstable sand that the shoreline ‘shelf’ quickly drops off to depths that exceed 60 feet.
Some estimates have the largest ‘lake’ on the property as being up to 300 feet deep. Because these ‘lakes’ are not fed by any streams but rather by a deep underground source, the water is clear but much colder which can result in a swimmer, even an accomplished one, tiring much faster.
The characteristics of these ‘lakes’ to include unstable shoreline shelves and water composition have been attributed to several drownings which have occurred on the property.
These ‘lakes’ are filled with mineral-laden spring water from the underground aquifer and as such buoyancy is reduced.
Township Police would like to remind the public that the Heritage Minerals/ASARCO site is private property. It is closed for recreational and/or other use and it is a criminal offense to enter or remain on the property.
In the interest of public safety, authorities urge everyone to obey the “No Trespassing” signs posted at the site. Trespassers are subject to large fines and penalties up to and including incarceration for being on the property.