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Kmart shoplifting suspect goes underground, almost loses his life

BATAVIA – A shoplifting suspect attempting to avoid arrest Friday afternoon entered a storm drain and pipes beneath the store parking lot – and came close to losing his life, Genesee County sheriff’s deputies said.

Wayne L. Rinker, 30, of Shadow Wood Lane, Webster, was barely conscious and suffering from hypothermia when deputies, who secured a rope to the suspect, managed to pull and push him to freedom, deputies said. Rinker was taken to United Memorial Medical Center.

The drama unfolded shortly after 3 p.m., when store Kmart employees attempted to stop Rinker and an unidentified accomplice with merchandise allegedly stolen from the store.

Though both stopped briefly, Rinker ran off, said deputies, who added that an officer arriving on the scene observed Rinker in the area of the storm drain at the edge of the parking lot with Kohl’s at Towne Center Plaza. Scuff marks in mud at the storm drain convinced authorities that Rinker had descended into the underground pipes.

Town of Batavia firefighters were summoned to help deputies access the pipes and, when a sewer camera failed to detect the suspect, it was decided to send deputies in, authorities said. Deputies Chad Cummings and Michael Lute discovered Rinker about 200 feet in, authorities said.

Larceny and conspiracy charge are pending against Rinker.

The Sheriff’s Office said that without the effort of law enforcement and firefighters, it is doubtful the suspect would have survied.

Also assisting were State and City of Batavia Police, COR Plaza security officers, Town of Batavia Water Department and Greg Post General Service employees, who provided the sewer camera.