MANCHESTER TOWNSHIP, NJ – A visit to a popular privately-owned 7000-acre tract of land in Manchester on Saturday afternoon ended tragically for a 23-year-old Plainfield man. Edwin Caballero visited the Heritage Mineral property on Saturday and went missing between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Caballero’s body was recovered submerged in a body of water commonly referred to as “Crystal Lake” on Sunday morning by members of the New Jersey State Police Technical Emergency and Mission Specialists (T.E.A.M.S.) unit.
On Saturday, July 4, 2020 at approximately 10 p.m., members of the Manchester Township Police were dispatched to the “Crystal Lake” area of the Heritage Minerals property, more commonly known as ASARCO, to investigate the report of a missing 23-year-old male. Upon arrival, officers learned that Plainfield resident, later identified as Edwin Caballero, had been missing since between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. Caballero 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, numerous members of both the police department and the local volunteer fire departments searched the area. Assisting with the search was a member of the Brick Township Police Department’s Drone Unit as well as members of the New Jersey State Police Aviation Unit. Despite an exhaustive search involving numerous resources, Mr. Caballero was not located.
Shortly after daybreak on Sunday morning, investigative personnel resumed their search for Mr. 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. Shortly thereafter, it was determined to be that of Edwin Caballero. The 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 who may have been at “Crystal Lake” and 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 (American Smelting and Refining Company), Inc., 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. Seemingly unassuming, these bodies of water offer many dangers. Because the lakes were 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.