Whitewater’s lure tempts many to risk injury, arrest

From the top of the Canajoharie Creek’s 40 foot waterfall, the water below appears deep and inviting

From the top of the Canajoharie Creek’s 40 foot waterfall, the water below appears deep and inviting to those looking to take a plunge and cool off.

But what many can’t see is a stone ledge sitting a few feet below the surface where the water crashes into a white froth.

Fourteen people charged with trespassing at the village’s Wintergreen Park over the weekend were lucky enough not to hit the rock.

But Canajoharie Mayor Francis Avery, who took office this year after seven years as justice, said two people died doing so while he was judge.

“If you dive underneath the falls, you’re going to hit the ledge and kill yourself,” he said Monday.

The falls in the village’s Wintergreen Park have long been a lure to thrill-seekers and local youths despite “no trespassing” signs posted to keep people away from the danger.

But each year, many get ticketed and every so often, the falls claim a life.

“In the seven years when I was judge, we had two people killed. This is the whole idea — they’re welcome to use the park, but they can’t be diving off into the falls. They don’t realize there is a ledge underneath the water,” Avery said.

Among the Canajoharie Creek’s victims are Christine Biamonte of Little Falls, who was 16 when she jumped off the cliff and died on May 11, 2004, and Jesse Nabinger of Fonda, who died at age 18 after leaping off the cliff into the falls in July 2003.

A week after the 2003 death, Yorkville resident Andrew Howe, 35, suffered injuries after slipping on rocks on a climb up to the falls.

In 2001, 19-year-old Union College student Alexander Lee died after leaping into the falls at Wintergreen Park. Montgomery County had to pay $84,000 after Lee’s parents sued over the autopsy conducted on their son, which they said their Jewish faith forbids.

An 18-year-old girl had to be rescued after an injury near the falls in August 2008 and nine others were ticketed for trespassing that day.

Canajoharie Police Chief Leonard Price on Monday said officers are boosting trespassing enforcement now that the warm weather has arrived.

“With the 90-degree weather, they come from all over the place, and it’s very hazardous,” he said.

The snowmelt and massive amount of rain in the springtime changes the dynamics of the creek and often moves things around like big rocks, Price said, so even those who think they know the makeup of the falls and creek can be surprised.

“This year they jump, there’s going to be a big boulder there. Water moves everything,” he said, adding it’s a tragedy when the lives of teens are cut short because of preventable activity.

“Of course we all think when we’re that young that we’re invincible. As we get older we realize we aren’t. The only way we can bring it to people’s attention is to make arrests,” Price said.

Canajoharie police charged the following with trespassing at Wintergreen Park: Michael Vallejo, 20, Melvin Shine, 23, Jeremy Ahrens, 19, Michael Miranda, 21, and Alexander Messina, 19, all of Schenectady; Amy Dickerma, 22, of Glenville, Sarah Dellrocco, 23, of Rotterdam, Mark Marcus, 16, of Howes Cave, and Christopher Phelen, 17, of Warnerville; and Cobleskill residents Samuel Collischonn, 16, Jordyn Mcintire, 17, Jacob Prezorski, 16, Conner O’Donnell, 16, and Shawn Sommers, 17.

Categories: Schenectady County

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