Friday, November 18, 2016

Letchworth Park deaths: Manslaughter, homicide indictments handed to judge

 On November 15, 2016, the Wyoming County Grand Jury handed down a 28- count indictment charging both Tyler Jennings, age 34, of Rochester, and Chad Staley, age 32, of Rochester each with 2 counts of Manslaughter in the Second Degree, a Class C Felony, 2 counts of Criminally Negligent Homicide, a class E Felony and 10 counts of Endangering the Welfare of a Child, a class A misdemeanor.  On November 17, 2016, the indictment was unsealed by the Hon. Michael M. Mohun and both defendants were arraigned with counsel and released on their own recognizance until motions can be heard on January 12, 2017 at 9:30 a.m. 
These charges stem from a five month investigation that began on June 11, 2016 by the New York State Park Police after 5 children and 2 adults were in a restricted area of Letchworth State Park, more particularly in the water directly above the Lower Falls, when the water swept all 7 people over the 70 foot waterfall.  Two of the children that went over the falls, Dylan Giangregorio (age 9) and Preston Giangregorio (age 6), did not survive the 70 foot fall.  It took a couple of days to recover their bodies after a very thorough and heroic effort by law enforcement officials from multiple agencies.  The other three children and the two defendants who also went over the falls suffered non-life threatening injuries.
It is alleged that the two defendants and the five children made their way towards the lower falls so that they could see the falls up close.  They made their way above the falls where the children were allegedly allowed to enter the water.  The five children ranged in ages from 5 to 12 years.  It is then alleged that the while the children were in water above the falls they began to lose their footing due to the strong current.  The defendants were unable to keep the children and themselves from going over the falls.  Mr. Staley was stuck on brink of the falls for almost 2 hours until he was saved by the Rope Rescue team. 
“While this case is truly tragic and our hearts go out to the family of the Giangregorio family it is important to note that their deaths were 100% preventable.  After reviewing the thorough investigation completed by members of the NYS Park Police, and personally surveying the area above the lower falls I felt that a review by the members of the Wyoming County Grand Jury was warranted and the indictment in this case was the result of their decision.
It is also important to note that the signage in any park mean something.  They are they to give notice, warning and assistance so that your stay can be enjoyable and safe.  In the area where this occurred the signage is clear and unmistakable.  However, regardless of signs or no signs any area directly above or within close proximately to a major waterfall is inherently dangerous and common sense would dictate not allowing children to play in that vicinity.  It is a miracle that 4 other people did not die from going over the falls and it is because of the quick work of first responders and the specialized rescue teams that the fifth person was rescued before serious injury or death occurred,” said Wyoming County District Attorney Donald O’Geen.