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Letter: Zoar Valley holds beauty, but many perils for hikers

News staff reporter Keith McShea’s June 11 article on the dangers of Zoar Valley’s terrain to hikers didn’t tell of other incidents. I am speaking about the people who visit this area for other reasons which can turn out to have devastating consequences. On June 23, my precious and only daughter, Amanda, at age 22 became a homicide statistic while visiting Zoar Valley 21 years ago.

She was a graduate of Nardin Academy and student at the University at Buffalo. She had her whole life ahead of her. Within the general location of where she was, there was a group of teenage boys, whom she did not know and who had been drinking and using illegal substances all afternoon.

Two of the boys climbed up to the top of the ravine above their “friends” and began throwing branches, stones and anything else they could get their hands on in order to “tease” their waiting group below, until they decided to throw something much larger – a 100-pound tree trunk.

While tossing this huge object over this high ravine, the trunk split in half and ricocheted into the back of my beautiful daughter’s head causing significant brain damage.

First responders acted quickly and several attempts to reach her became quite an undertaking and several hours were lost, through no one’s fault, and eventually Mandy was taken to the Erie County Medical Center trauma unit. She lived one week in a coma and succumbed to her injuries. My life has never been the same.

I would like to put my own caution warnings to all hikers. You need to have your wits about you in unfamiliar terrain. Take personal responsibility and be aware of consequences.

Drinking, drugging, and clowning around within such dangerous confines leads to serious and deadly consequences. I know. I live this every day in the loss of my beautiful Amanda.

Linda Occhino


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