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Daemen grad student had looked forward to party that turned fatal

Tommy Krickovich was looking forward to the party that his fellow graduate students at Daemen College planned for Friday night at Pearl Street Grill and Brewery.

“Best part of being a PA (physician’s assistant) is we get a prom at Pearl Street with an open bar for 4 hours,” Krickovich tweeted Tuesday. He used the hashtag #prayforme.

The party was one of hundreds held each year at the popular downtown dining and drinking establishment. But something went terribly wrong Friday night, and Krickovich fell from a third-floor terrace balcony just after 10 p.m., suffering fatal injuries.

Someone called 911 for a rescue.

“It was horrible,” said a detective familiar with the death. “It was a lost cause from the start.”

Krickovich, a 24-year-old Lancaster resident, was transported to Buffalo General, where he was pronounced dead.

Detectives are awaiting autopsy results for cause of death, police said.

Homicide detectives took several witnesses to police headquarters to interview them, but police said foul play is not suspected.

“It’s an accidental fall,” police spokesman Michael J. DeGeorge said. “We’re continuing to investigate.”

The event that Krickovich was attending was not a prom, Daemen spokeswoman Paula Witherell said.

“It was a student-run event, a longstanding tradition at Daemen that PA students organize themselves,” Witherell said, noting “it’s a small department and very tight-knit.”

Daemen College is offering grief counseling and support services to students, College President Gary Olson said in statement.

“During this difficult time, the college requests respect for the privacy and needs of the family, friends and Daemen students affected by this tragedy,” Olson said.

Krickovich’s mother, Susan R. Krickovich, is chair of the education department at Daemen and an associate professor.

Earl Ketry, owner of Pearl Street, said his attorney advised him not to comment on details of what occurred until police complete their investigation.

“It’s a human tragedy and a shame,” Ketry said.

More than 2,000 events are held each year at the Pearl Street Grill, he said.

“We have handled hundreds of these types of events in our history,” Ketry said. “We’re a pretty tightly run, reputable bunch who take our responsibilities seriously. We understand the importance of licenses, and the volatility of one of the products we serve. We have no idea what caused whatever happened, and it’s heartbreaking to us.”

Krickovich comes from a well-known Lancaster family.

He graduated from Lancaster High School in 2009, where he played varsity football.

Len Jankiewicz, retired Lancaster high school football coach and athletic director, fondly recalled Krickovich’s time on the high school team. Krickovich played special teams, inside linebacker and running back.

He was the product of both his father’s and his mother’s – Domino – families, Jankiewicz said. Both families are “iconic names in Depew football,” he said.

“He was a very gifted athlete and had a very dynamic year as a senior,” Jankiewicz said. “This team was magical and Tommy was one of those magical kids that made everything jibe.”

“He was spontaneous. He was witty, and he was extremely respectful.”

Jankiewicz was shocked to hear about Krickovich’s death, and went to the family’s home upon hearing the news.

“It’s a parent’s worst nightmare,” he said. “Young Tommy was on the verge of a great career. Your heart bleeds for the family.”

Other friends from high school also recalled him fondly.

“He was a really sweet guy,” said Alyssa Stoeckl, who went to high school with Krickovich. “He always had a smile on his face.”

Friends, former coaches and those close to Krickovich were stunned Saturday to learn of his death.

“It doesn’t make sense for him to go that way,” said Calvin Hudson, a Marine stationed in Japan who once worked with Krickovich at Picasso’s Pizza in Lancaster. “It all happened so fast and out of the blue. I can’t even process it.”

“He was a life enthusiast. He wanted to go out and do things,” Hudson said. “He liked to go out and have fun, and to let loose, but he was well-mannered and had good judgment. He wouldn’t be on your couch at 6 a.m.”

Hudson recalled how Krickovich would post things on Facebook or Snapchat that “would make your day.”

“He’d always put a funny twist on something,” Hudson said.

Krickovich later graduated from St. John Fisher College in Rochester, where he studied communications, before going to Daemen.

“I am completely baffled that something like this could happen to someone like Tom,” said Patrick Blizniak, who played football with him at Fisher College.

“At that hour, at 10 p.m., knowing Tommy, he wouldn’t be that drunk that he’d fall off a balcony. That just wasn’t Tommy,” Blizniak said.

“We’re hurting for his family. There’s a family now with a hole in its heart. That could have been any one of us.”

Paul Vosburgh, head football coach at Fisher College, said Krickovich was a good student and a hard worker.

“Tommy gave his teammates everything,” Vosburgh said. “He was just a good quality kid.”

Krickovich enjoyed the outdoors, from kayaking at Canalside and parasailing last August at Roanoke Island to frogwatching by the waterfalls of Letchworth State Park last summer. He also loved his 1-year-old dog Bernard, often sending video snapchats of his dog’s latest antics.

On behalf of the entire Daemen College community, we are deeply saddened to share the tragic loss,” Daemen College said in a statement.

Members of the Daemen community are encouraged to contact campus safety at 839-8246 or Counseling Services at 839-8337 for assistance.

email: krobinson@buffnews.com and email: msommer@buffnews.com