File photo submitted by the New York State Police.
On Tuesday, the Wyoming County Grand Jury handed down a 28-count indictment charging two Rochester men in the deaths of Dylan and Preston Giangregorio in Letchworth State Park this summer.
Tyler Jennings, 34, and Chad Staley, 32, were each charged with two counts of manslaughter in the second degree, a Class C felony; two counts of criminally negligent homicide, a Class E felony; and 10 counts of endangering the welfare of a child, a Class A misdemeanor.
The charges stem from a five-month investigation that began June 11 by the New York State Park Police after park patrons were in a restricted area of the park, resulting in the death of the brothers Dylan, 9, and Preston, 6, both of Rochester.
It is alleged the two defendants and five children entered a restricted area above the Lower Falls to get a closer look at the waterfall. It is also alleged the men allowed the children – 5 to 12 years old – to enter the water.
It was reported the group began to lose their footing due to the strong current and all were swept over the 70-foot waterfall.
Staley was said to have been stuck on the brink of the falls for almost two hours until he was saved by the Wyoming County Rope Rescue team. The other three children and Jennings cascaded over the falls and suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
Searchers continued scouring the river below the falls June 12 and recovered the body of Preston. On June 14, the Underwater Recovery Team from the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office and the State Police recovered Dylan’s body.
“While this case is truly tragic and our hearts go out to the family of the Giangregorio family, it is important to note that their deaths were 100-percent preventable,” said Wyoming County District Attorney Donald O’Geen. “After reviewing the thorough investigation completed by members of the NYS Park Police, and personally surveying the area above the lower falls, I felt that a review by the members of the Wyoming County Grand Jury was warranted and the indictment in this case was the result of their decision.”
Wyoming County Judge Michael Mohun unsealed the indictment Nov. 17 and both defendants were arraigned and released on their own recognizance.
“It is important to note that the signage in any park means something. Signs are there to give notice, warning and assistance so that your stay can be enjoyable and safe. In the area where this occurred, the signage is clear and unmistakable. However, regardless of signs or no signs, any area directly above or within close proximately to a major waterfall is inherently dangerous and common sense would dictate not allowing children to play in that vicinity.
“It is a miracle that four other people did not die from going over the falls and it is because of the quick work of first responders and the specialized rescue teams that the fifth person was rescued before serious injury or death occurred.”
Assisting State Park Police in the search included the New York State Police, and NYSP dive team, aviation, and other resources; Pike, Silver Springs, Perry, and Monroe ambulances; Nunda Fire and Ambulance; Castile Fire Department; Livingston County Emergency Services; Mercy Flight; Wyoming County Rope Rescue; Wyoming County Emergency Management; and the Wyoming County Sheriff’s Office.
See related: Police identify the boys who fell over the falls at Letchworth State Park