Two Rochester men are charged with manslaughter in the deaths of two boys who died when they were swept over the Lower Falls in Letchworth State Park on June 11.
Tyler Jennings, 34, and Chad Staley, 32, each was indicted on two felony counts of second-degree manslaughter, two felony counts of criminally negligent homicide, and 10 counts of endangering the welfare of a child. The men were arraigned Thursday in Wyoming County Court before Judge Michael M. Mohun and released on their own recognizance.
Jennings and Staley were part of an extended family gathering at Letchwork on June 11 when they took five children to "see the falls up close," according to the Wyoming County District Attorney's Office. The men allowed the children, ages 5 to 12, to wade into the Genesee River directly above the 70-foot-high Lower Falls, a posted and restricted area.
The children lost their footing in the fast-moving river and the men could not hold onto them. The current swept all five children and Jennings over the falls while Staley clung to the brink.
District Attorney Donald O'Geen issued a statement Friday calling the children's deaths "truly tragic" and "100 percent preventable."
He pointed out that warning signs were "clear and unmistakable" in the park area around the waterfalls.
"Regardless of signs or no signs, any area directly above or within close proximity to a major waterfall is inherently dangerous, and common sense would dictate not allowing children to play in that vicinity," O'Geen said. "It is a miracle that four other people did not die from going over the falls."
Three girls ages 5, 6 and 12, were rescued, but brothers Dylan Giangregorio, 9, and Preston Giangregorio, 6, of Brockport did not survive the fall. One boy's body was recovered the next day, and the other boy was found the following Tuesday.
A rope team was able to get Staley to safety after about two hours. All were hospitalized at the time with various injuries, none of them life-threatening.
The district attorney praised the work of first responders and rescue teams involved in the rescue and recovery. The case was investigated by New York State Park Police.
Staley and Jennings are due back in court Jan. 12.