Tuck Bridge participant drowns in Connecticut River; authorities recover body

by Jessica Chen and Benjamin Zimmerman | 8/12/05 5:00am

WEB UPDATE, August 13, 4:28 p.m.

Valentin Valkov drowned in the Connecticut River early Friday morning while celebrating the conclusion of the Tuck Bridge Program, of which he was a participant.

Following an extensive search, state and local law enforcement officials recovered the 21-year-old Bulgarian's body around 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

Although divers searched throughout Friday and into Saturday, authorities found the body by monitoring an underwater camera from a television screen on shore, Hanover Police Chief Nicholas Giaccone said.

Hanover police said they believe Valkov, an undergraduate at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., entered the river from the Vermont side with several other Bridge participants and swam about two-thirds of the way across before disappearing at around 2 a.m. Friday morning.

Valkov was attempting "The Ledyard Challenge," a traditionally nude swim across the Connecticut River, after the completion of the Bridge Program on Thursday, participants said. He was slated to graduate from the four-week program on Friday.

Valkov's body has been sent to the medical examiner's office in Concord, N.H. for an autopsy.

State and local law enforcement officers mobilized Friday morning around the Ledyard Bridge and the College's nearby swimming dock in an effort that College officials described as "focused on recovery."

Giaccone originally expressed uncertainty as to whether the victim's body could be located in the muddy river, explaining that the visibility in the water extended only to about one's hand.

"It'll be luck if we find him," Giaccone said on Friday afternoon.

Hanover authorities were among the first to arrive at the scene of the incident Friday morning.

"At approximately 2:21 a.m., Hanover Police and Fire departments responded to the Connecticut River in the area of the Ledyard Bridge for the report of a male swimmer who was drowning," a police press release stated.

Authorities on the scene Friday afternoon clustered on the College's swimming dock while divers and the New Hampshire Marine Patrol could be seen in small, motorized boats below the Ledyard Bridge.

According to the Bridge website, the program is a "fast track to mastery of business basics," which is offered to "juniors, seniors and recent graduates of the arts and sciences colleges." Recently awarded a grant from the UPS Foundation, the second session of the Bridge program is the first to offer a nonprofit course of study.

The second session of the program, of which the missing student was a part, ended on Thursday, Aug. 11, and many parents were scheduled to arrive Friday to attend graduation and pick up students from the program.

College representatives praised the work of state and local law enforcement officials working on the case.

"The dedication and professionalism of the officers who have been working on this case since the early morning hours is very much appreciated and has impressed us all," College President James Wright said in a statement sent to the Dartmouth community.

Staff writer Kevin Garland contributed to this report.