Posted by: njrigg | September 1, 2011

Remembering Princeton Swiftwater Rescue Team Member, Michael Kenwood

Remembering Princeton Swiftwater Rescue Team Member, Michael Kenwood

By Nancy J. Rigg

Michael Kenwood, Swiftwater Rescue Team. Photo Courtesy of Princeton First Aid & Rescue Squad.

Michael Kenwood, an EMT with the Princeton First Aid & Rescue Squad, lost his life in the line of duty while attempting a nighttime swiftwater rescue on August 28, 2011, as Hurricane Irene inundated much of New Jersey.  The former director of the Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps (BEMCo), and  alumnus of the Brandeis Class of 1994, was 39.

According to news reports, Kenwood and a fellow member of the swiftwater rescue team were responding at 4:30 in the morning to reports of a vehicle that authorities believed was occupied and being submerged quickly in rapidly rising floodwaters.

It is unclear exactly what went wrong, but Kenwood was somehow swept into the powerful torrent and pulled, unconscious, farther downstream.  He was quickly transported to University Medical Center at Princeton.  While under treatment in the ICU, unfortunately, there were errors in reporting his death prematurely.  He died one day later, on August 29th.

According to a Brandeis University memorial article, Kenwood earned a law degree from Boston University and owned his own company, Kenwood Technical Consulting.  He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Frenkel, and 3-year-old daughter, who live in East Windsor, NJ.

In May 1990, a few months before enrolling at Brandeis, Kenwood was reportedly involved in an auto accident that changed the course of his life.  He shared his story in a 1993 letter to BEMCo:

“I will never forget the feeling of fear and helplessness that swept over me as I looked from my two friends, one of whom was unconscious, to the hysterical driver of the other car, to my right wrist, which was deeply lacerated and bleeding heavily,” Kenwood wrote. “I swore to myself that if I lived, I would learn the skills to care for myself and others should another medical emergency ever confront me again.

.. Being a member of BEMCo has been highly significant for me. From the most basic medical perspective, it’s given me the chance to apply and to share my skills as an EMT.  Beyond that, I’ve met some wonderfully talented and dedicated people.  Finally, it’s given me countless opportunities to grow as an individual.”

Remembering Michael Kenwood

Sadly, it was in service to others that Kenwood lost his own life.

Kenwood is the fourth swiftwater rescuer to die this year, within a deadly and tragic two month time period.

Search and Rescue (SAR) volunteer, Sheilah Sweatman, 29, drowned on June 29th during a recovery mission in the Goat River near Creston, B.C.

Converse County Sheriff’s Deputy Bryan Gross, 29, lost his life on July 28th, during a river rescue incident on the North Platte River in Wyoming.

And Missouri State Trooper, Frederick F. Guthrie, Jr., 46, and his K-9 partner, Reed, were swept away in a powerful flash flood on August 1st.  Reed’s body was recovered, but, sadly, Guthrie is still missing.

Kenwood is one of at least 45 deaths in 13 states that have been attributed to Hurricane Irene, with the majority of losses caused by powerful inland floodwaters, the churning surf along the coastline, and falling trees.

*   *   *

Condolences may be sent to:

Princeton First Aid & Rescue Squad
P.O. Box 529
Princeton, NJ 08542-0529

Brandeis University Article:



  1. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and team.
    Sierra Rescue Tools, LLC

  2. Thank you, Nancy, for writing this and for all the work you do(and have done during the decades) with Swiftwater Rescue. It’s an honor to read about these men and women. I would never have had the opportunity to know of each, otherwise and that would be a terrible loss, as has been the loss of their precious lives.

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