By Karen Zautyk
A four-day search for a Kearny man who disappeared in the Passaic River ended early last Tuesday, Oct. 4, when the body of 21-year-old Georgie Pena was found in the water behind the Pathmark on Passaic Ave.
The tragic discovery was made at 7:15 a.m. by Kearny Police Sgt. Rick Poplaski and Officer Jack Corbett, who had just launched a police boat to continue the hunt.
Kearny Police Chief John Dowie said the body was on the east side of the river about three to four feet from the shore.
Pena’s body was taken to the Medical Examiner’s office, where it was identified. The case has been handed over to the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office.
Pena had gone into the water shortly after 12:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 30, as he was reportedly fleeing police who had seen him running across Passaic Ave. at the foot of Magnolia Ave. When officers reached the riverbank, Pena was already near midstream “being carried south by the river’s current,” police said.
Authorities said officers had been on the lookout for him after he was nearly hit by a car while walking in the middle of Passaic near North Midland Ave. a short time before. Dowie stated that Pena was not wanted by police and was not being chased, but that he ran from the cops.
Kearny police and firefighters and rescue boats from Lyndhurst and Wallington launched an immediate search, which ended after several hours with negative results, authorities said. It was resumed at daybreak and continued from dawn to dusk that Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
The Tuesday search was just starting when the body was found.
State Police helicopters and boats, K-9 units and first responders, including several scuba teams, from more than a half-dozen jurisdictions took part in the exhaustive hunt, which extended from Kearny’s northern border all the way to Newark Bay.
The day after Pena disappeared, The Observer spoke briefly with his stricken mother, Daisy Pena of Kearny, who had gone to the KPD search command center at Passaic Ave. and the Belleville Pike with several family members.
At that time, she was still clinging to hope that her son might be found alive.
“I’m supposed to die before he does,” she said through her tears. “Parents are supposed to die before their kids do.”