Burlington Woman Dies After Fall Into Huntington River | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice


Burlington Woman Dies After Fall Into Huntington River


Published July 15, 2023 at 8:01 p.m.

Katie Hartnett - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Katie Hartnett
A 25-year-old Burlington woman died in an apparent drowning after she fell into the Huntington River on Friday afternoon, state police said.

Katie Hartnett was reported missing on Friday night, after her car was found on Dugway Road in Richmond. She was last seen around 1 p.m. that day.

Hartnett, who worked with kindergarteners in the Burlington School District, is the only child of Lisa and Dave Hartnett. Her father, a former Burlington city councilor, is well known in the city's New North End neighborhood, where he manages a convenience store.

The search for Katie Hartnett included members of the Vermont Air National Guard, who scanned the river from a helicopter. They discovered her body in the water around noon on Saturday, according to the Vermont State Police. Roughly 40 people from numerous search-and-rescue teams, including a swift-water crew from North Carolina that was in Vermont to help with the flood response, worked to recover Hartnett’s body.
The state medical examiner’s office will determine the cause and manner of death. But an initial investigation by state police found that Hartnett was visiting the Huntington River upstream of the Huntington Gorge when she slipped and fell into the water.

Katie's uncle Pat Hartnett, speaking on behalf of her family, said by phone on Saturday that she was “the light of David and Lisa’s life.”

Katie was a “wonderful, compassionate, quick-witted educator,” he said. She obtained undergraduate and master's degrees from Saint Michael's College in Colchester and was working as a teaching assistant at Champlain Elementary School. Katie was looking forward to having her own classroom soon, her uncle said.

He thanked the search-and-rescue personnel, who performed in “such a seamless and professional manner.”

“Katie was in the very best hands she could be at that point,” Pat Hartnett said.

State officials have warned of dangerous river flows throughout the state following historic flooding earlier this week. "Even once the skies have cleared, people and pets should stay out of any body of water after a heavy rain or flooding event," Health Commissioner Mark Levine said at a press conference on Friday.

It was unclear as of Saturday evening whether river conditions contributed to Hartnett’s death. The 18-mile-long river, a tributary of the Winooski River popular for swimming and fishing, was running “high and fast with all the recent rain and floodwater,” state police spokesperson Adam Silverman wrote in an email.
State officials so far have attributed one death to the floods. Barre City resident Stephen Davoll, 63, died in a drowning accident at his flood-damaged home on July 12. Members of Davoll's family told VTDigger.org that he had been checking on water in his basement when he died.

The National Weather Service in Burlington issued another flash flood watch Sunday for much of the state as thunderstorms could bring another inch or two of rain and cause excessive runoff from already saturated soils. The flood watch applies to all of central and northern Vermont, except the immediate Champlain Valley and Champlain Islands.

The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation has also warned of landslides in the coming days.

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