Man dies after bizzare series of events

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:46

    It was barely after 6 o'clock in the morning on Wednesday, February 16 when resients near the woods off Germantown Road notified the police of gunfire. West Milford Officers O'Keefe and Braikovitch responded to the call and hiked about mile into the woods. They found four men who had apparently driven their vehicles off a dirt round into the woods, started a campfire, and were blasting a shotgun into the trees. All four men were drunk. They were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, unlawful possession of a weapon, and unlawful discharge of a firearm. The four men were John Thunell Jr., 61, of New Milford, NY; Ryan Gillen, 24, of Brooklyn, NY; Stephen Gringas, 31, of Mahwah; and Warren Gross, 35, of Greenwood Lake, NY. The weapons, two shotguns, were the property of Thunell. By 3 p.m, Thunell was sober and was released on bail. His wife gave him a ride back to the woods so that he could get his truck. When he hadn't emerged by 7:30 in the evening, search and rescue teams began hunting for him. West Milford Search and Rescue, New Jersey Search and Rescue, West Milford Police, Passaic County Sheriff's Department, Ringwood Police and New Jersey State Police Aviation Unit searched the wooded areas around Germantown Rd. and Echo Lake. A little after 8 a.m. the following morning, a team from New Jersey Search and Rescue found Thunell who was waving a red article of clothing to get their attention. By this time, Thunell had been in the lost in the woods for approximately 16 hours and was suffering from exposure and symptoms of hypothermia. He was wet from wading through a stream, had lost one of his boots, and had become disoriented. He told rescuers he had gotten lost while looking for his truck. When he emerged from the woods he was met by the West Milford First Aid Squad and paramedics from St. Joseph's Hospital. He was conscious and alert while being transported by ambulance to Chilton Memorial Hospital in Pompton Plains. Within hours of his admittance his condition worsened, making him a candidate for intensive care. While waiting to be transferred, Thunell died in the emergency room. He was pronounced dead at 1:50 p.m.