Lawsuit Adds Chill to Sea Isle’s ‘Plunge’

A lawsuit is threatening to put a further chill in this weekend’s 17th annual Polar Bear Plunge in Sea Isle City.

According to the Press of Atlantic City, the parents of Tracy Hottenstein filed a lawsuit last week in federal district court in Camden blaming the Shore town’s annual cold-weather ocean dive for their daughter’s death in 2009 from hypothermia. In addition to the general buzz-kill the suit has inflicted on the event, investigators with the Sea Isle City police and the Cape May County prosecutor’s office will attend on Saturday, circulating fliers featuring a photo of Hottenstein taken the day of the 2009 Plunge. Their hope is to find witnesses who might help them fill in the final hours of Hottenstein’s life.

In the suit, Hottenstein’s parents blame 19 different defendants for their daughter’s wrongful death, including the city, police, medical personnel and close friends. The suit alleges that the city’s supposedly lax stance on alcohol consumption during the Plunge was the primary reason their daughter—a marathon runner and pharmaceutical saleswoman from Conshohocken—fell into the bay and succumbed to the cold while intoxicated at 2:15 a.m.

When I first read this headline I assumed Hottenstein had participated in the Plunge. I was shocked to learn that she hadn’t even set foot in the water during the event. Rather, she had been hanging out with friends at a local resort and bar that afternoon.

Was the Plunge—and the atmosphere of revelry it encourages—responsible for Hottenstein’s death? I guess we’ll find out as the suit makes its way through the legal system.

Meanwhile, the Plunge splashes on. You can still sign up on Sea Isle’s website.

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