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TEENAGER DIES IN 50-FOOT FALL INTO GORGE

An East Amherst teenager was killed when she fell at least 50 feet near a waterfall in Zoar Valley Saturday morning.

Lauren R. Castanza, 19, of Transit Road, and her friend, Amanda Neudeck of Delevan, were hiking around 11:45 a.m. and had climbed near the top of one of the smaller falls when Castanza fell.

"Lauren was walking toward the edge of the falls and either lost her footing, or slipped and fell over," said State Police Sgt. Gregory Worrell, supervisor at the scene. "She fell approximately 50 or 60 feet."

Neudeck climbed down to where Castanza landed, called 911, then called for help to other hikers.

It took several hours and more than half a dozen police, fire and rescue crews to retrieve the two hikers, since rescue personnel had to climb up from the bottom of the gorge to reach them, said Worrell, of the State Police barracks in Jamestown. They reached the accident site after 3 p.m.

Castanza suffered internal injuries and multiple fractures to her shoulder, head, hip and leg along her left side, Worrell said. Cattaraugus County coroner Howard Van Renselear pronounced her dead at the scene.

Neudeck, 32, was taken to Tri-County Hospital, where she was treated for shock.

Castanza is the second person to die at Zoar Valley in the past year. Five accidents were recorded there last year.

Rescue teams consider Zoar Valley to be one of the most dangerous natural areas in Western New York.

On June 23, a 21-year-old man from the City of Tonawanda fell about 15 feet, suffered face and wrist fractures, and was flown out by the Erie County Sheriff's Department AirOne helicopter.

In April, a Collins Center man fell at least 40 feet into the gorge, near the point where an East Randolph woman died from a 150-foot fall last August.

While Worrell said investigators weren't sure what led to Saturday's fatality, he said of the frequency of accidents: "I don't know if it's careless or they just don't know the dangers involved when they're hiking in Zoar Valley."

He said the people who are lost or injured in the gorge often aren't locals and tend to be less cautious.

e-mail: stan@buffnews.com

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