NY Paddler Death: PFD Was Apparently Worn

Long Island Man Drowns in Upstate NY Lake

Last weekend on Lake George, New York, another paddler drowned.  According to the local news, the Post Star, Michael Butler was wearing a PFD – a waist belt inflatable which he did not activate.  As the report below indicates, there are no indications he was injured or otherwise impaired so as not to be able to pull the ripcord. He was in eight feet of water, about 40 feet from shore. An earlier story published by y Newsday characterizes Butler as an extreme sports enthusiast and quote his family as saying this was “the one time” he didn’t paddle with his “life vest.”  Whether that means he usually wore a Type II PFD instead of the waist belt pfd is not clear. Nor is there any mention of whether he used a leash, although the board was “found floating in the water unattended.”

Know how to swim.  Use a leash.  Wear the PFD and know how to activate and deploy it.

Photo credit: Newsday/Butler Family

TICONDEROGA — The Long Island man who died while paddleboarding on Lake George late Friday was found to have drowned and was wearing an inflatable life preserver that he did not activate, police said.

An autopsy found that Michael J. Butler III, 61, of Patchogue, Suffolk County, drowned, and that there did not appear to be any medical conditions or injuries that played a part in his death, according to Ticonderoga Police. There was also no indication he was impaired.

Butler was wearing an inflatable flotation device around his waist, which would inflate when a cord was pulled. But the device did not inflate, and it did not appear the cord had been pulled, said Ticonderoga Police Chief Michael LaVallie.

“We are still looking into it. That (why the device was not activated) is something we are still trying to figure out,” he said.

Butler was found in the lake Saturday morning, about 14 hours after a search was begun when his paddleboard was spotted floating unattended in the north end of the lake, near Mossy Point.

Butler was staying at a home on Baldwin Road in Ticonderoga and had visited the area a number of times in the past. It was unclear how experienced he was at standup paddleboarding.

LaVallie said police have talked to a number of people who saw Butler’s board floating unattended, but no one who saw him fall in the water. He said there was no indication of foul play, but asked that anyone who may have witnessed the incident call police at 585-2205.

Newsday of Long Island reported Sunday that Butler was a school administrator at the Amityville Union Free School District.

Butler had worked as facilities director in the Amityville school district since 2015, and before that served with the Suffolk County Parks Department and the Sachem, Elwood and Patchogue-Medford school districts, according to the paper. The Amityville district posted a statement of condolences on its website.

Butler’s younger brother, Dave Butler, on Sunday told Newsday, “Mike was an incredible brother, father, husband and community servant. We’re all having a tough time dealing with this loss. We look forward to celebrating his life over the next several days together as a family and community.”



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