This story has been updated and corrected to included the 1993 death of James Oliver.
ROTTERDAM – The teenager who fell to her death at the Plotter Kill Preserve Tuesday night was the preserve’s first fatality since 1993.
Ten others have fallen from the waterfalls or ravine walls in the past three decades, were rescued by the Plotterkill Fire Department’s rope rescue team, and survived, according to Plotterkill Fire Department Chief John Tobiassen.
Carly Sinnott, 17, attended Mekeel Christian Academy in Scotia. She lived in Clifton Park and attended Shenendehowa schools until two years ago.
• Plotter Kill Preserve’s natural beauty comes with inherent dangers
On Tuesday, she was hiking at the preserve with her longtime boyfriend and four other friends.
They were walking in the evening, but it was still light out, Rotterdam police Lt. Michael Brown said.
Shortly before 7 p.m., the group reached the second of three waterfalls in the Plotter Kill Preserve, a public wilderness area owned by the county. It’s just a short drive from Scotia, in the town of Rotterdam.
From the second waterfall, a steep, narrow dirt path — an unofficial, unmarked route — heads down to the bottom of the falls. She fell from the top of that path, Brown said.
It’s not clear why she slipped, but the ground was slippery from recent rain, Tobiassen said.
“These banks are very unstable,” he said. “It’s mud over shale. We have had a couple injuries there. Three times at this spot.”
Her friends saw the accident, but it happened too quickly for them to act, authorities said.
James H. Oliver Jr. died in September 1993 after falling off a cliff in the preserve.
Sinnott fell about 50 feet and landed face-down into the pool of water at the base of the falls. Her boyfriend hurried down to her, getting bruised and cut, and pulled her out of the water. He did CPR but she was not responsive, friend Scott Voelker said.
Police said their investigation indicated that the teenagers were not drinking or fooling around before the incident.
“It was just an unfortunate mishap,” he said.
Friends called 911, and firefighters carried Sinnott out.
Due to the rugged terrain, it took them 17 minutes to reach her from the time of the call, Tobiassen said. It took a total of three hours for them to bring her out to an ambulance. She was flown to Albany Medical Center around 10 p.m. Tuesday and pronounced dead at 2:18 a.m. Wednesday.
It was a horrific incident, as friends tried to save her life and waited for help, Voelker said. Her boyfriend, whom police are not identifying because he is a minor, is extremely distraught, Voelker said.
“He keeps going over and over it and telling us,” he said. “It hurts. It’s like we were there.”
Friends have taken turns staying with him, and stayed with him overnight after he was treated and released from the hospital Tuesday evening.
At Mekeel, where Sinnott was a junior, counselors gathered to help the students mourn and remember their friend.
She was captain of the volleyball team. She sang in the select choir and was on the honor roll.
But she was more than a list of accomplishments.
“Carly was very special,” said music choral director Rachel Brownell. “Every place Carly went, she smiled. She brightened everyone’s day. She was always a joyful person.”
Voelker, who is best friends with Sinnott’s boyfriend, came to love her dearly.
“It’s like, you have a best friend and you get another best friend on the other side,” he said. “She’s as chill as one of the guys. If we’re at a soccer game, she was with us cheering too.”
They were lab partners in chemistry and shared an English class. Although Sinnott was a good student, Voelker remembered her quiet jokes.
“She would always make you laugh,” he said, adding that she came up with humorous captions for another friend’s artwork. “She was funny. And she was always happy.”
Brownell acknowledged Sinnott’s penchant for jokes as well.
“She was humorous, she was funny,” Brownell said. “But at the same time, she was a great student. She was right with you, focused, dedicated.”
Sinnott joined the select choir because the only friend she knew at Mekeel was in the group, Brownell added.
“Her voice developed, and she ended up becoming a major player in that,” she said.
Sinnott also excelled on the volleyball court, where she played on the varsity team.
At the end of the last volleyball season, she was given the Heart of a Lion award for her “exceptional commitment to her teammates and her coaches.”
“Carly will be sorely missed by all of us,” said her coach Kevin Islip. “She had such a great spirit.”
Her smile lit up the room, and she was friends with everyone, school officials said.
“Her relationship with Christ was evident in her joyful interactions with students and teachers every day,” said English teacher Katie O’Leary.
School officials called her caring and compassionate, saying in a news release, “Carly’s kindness left a permanent impact on our school and community.”
Police said her fall was a tragic accident. Although officers attended an autopsy Tuesday, they said there were no indications of drugs, alcohol or foul play.
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