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Zoar Valley deaths leave family 'with empty hearts and without words'

The family of Amanda and William Green, the couple from South Buffalo who died Sunday after an apparent fall from a cliff at Zoar Valley in Cattaraugus County, said Monday that the "tragic event has left us with empty hearts and without words."

"We are grateful for the outpouring of thoughts and prayers from the Western New York community," the family said in a statement.

The couple's two sons, ages 4 and 7, were airlifted to the hospital with injuries, according to the Erie County Sheriff's Office.

Amanda Green was an employee at BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, which has assisted the family and distributed the statement on its behalf.

"While the details of yesterday are still being discovered, we want to remember Amanda and William’s legacy as two parents that loved their children dearly," the family said. "Our family would like to thank the first responders including Erie County Sheriff's Office, Mercy Flight, as well as the dedicated staff at Women and Children’s Hospital for their courageous and caring efforts.

"At this time, we are focused on Amanda and William’s two little boys and will share additional information at the appropriate time," according to the statement.

Erie County Sheriff Timothy B. Howard identified the couple as William Green, 33, and his wife, Amanda, 35, of Seneca Street.

As of Sunday night Alexander Green, 4, remained in guarded condition in the intensive care unit at Women and Children’s Hospital with internal injuries, multiple fractures, and a head injury.

Jacob Green, 7, who was found by a sheriff’s detective, sustained a broken right arm and ankle and is in good condition.

The wild preserve of Zoar Valley is known for both its picturesque beauty and its perilous terrain, which has been the site of several rescues and other incidents in recent years. (News file photo)

Two people hiking along the creek in the valley part of Zoar spotted the couple and the younger son on a low ledge a few feet above the water at the base of the cliff. Not having a phone with them, they found another hiker who did have a cellphone to call for help at 12:45 p.m.

Erie County Sheriff's Air 1 helicopter and SWAT and rope teams responded, but the adults had already died. The 4-year-old boy was taken by Mercy Flight to Women and Children's Hospital of Buffalo. At that point, the older boy had not been found.

Authorities believe the three fell at least 200 feet down a steep cliff covered with trees and brush while camping or hiking in a state-owned section of Zoar Valley. The victims were found in a section of the Zoar Valley Multiple Use Area between Unger and Vail roads that features some of the highest cliffs in the entire gorge.

Rescuers realized a fourth family member might have been missing when they found children's sneakers with the family's belongings that were too large for the 4-year-old.

As many as 100 people were involved in the search-and-rescue efforts, including firefighters and rappelling teams from Gowanda, Collins, Collins Center and Eden, state police, deputies from Erie and Cattaraugus counties and Department of Environmental Conservation personnel.

An Erie County sheriff's deputy eventually located the 7-year-old walking on the floor of the gorge shortly after 6 p.m., said Scott Zylka, spokesman for the Erie County Sheriff's Office.

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