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Man Drowns In NJ 'Hidden Gem' Popularized On TikTok

A short panorama of Crystal Lake in Manchester Township, Ocean County, New Jersey.
A short panorama of Crystal Lake in Manchester Township, Ocean County, New Jersey. Video Credit: Don Crawford (YouTube user dcvmnaturalist)

A 23-year-old Plainfield man drowned at a former mining property in Ocean County, authorities said.

The body of Edwin Caballero was pulled from Crystal Lake at the Heritage Mineral property in Manchester Sunday morning, Manchester Township police said.

Several videos of Crystal Lake have been popping up on social video-sharing platform TikTok, calling the spot a "hidden gem." A Manchester Township police spokesperson warned, though, the water can be "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," the spokesperson wrote. "Some estimates have the largest ‘lake’ on the property as being up to 300 feet deep."

Responders were called to the sprawling, 7,000-acre property off of Route 37 around 10 p.m. Saturday on reports that Caballero went missing between 5 and 6 p.m., authorities said.

Family members were unsure of whether Caballero walked to a nearby wooded area or if he was in the water.

A Brick police drone and State Police helicopter were unable to locate Caballero that evening. But early Sunday morning, state troopers using advanced marine sonar located Caballero, whose body was submerged in approximately 16 feet of water, police said.

An investigation found he drowned.

The body of water that Caballero drowned in is called a "blue hole," and came about because of mining. Blue holes don't have a stable shoreline or bottom, and have quick drop-offs -- which are sudden and deep pockets of water, often colder, and don't have much buoyancy, law enforcement officials said.

The area is closed to the public, and trespassers could face criminal charges, police said.

Anyone with information on the drowning is asked to call local police Detective Christian Nazario at 732-657-2009 ext. 4221 or Detective John Carroll, of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes Unit at 732-929-2027.

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