Tonawanda News

Local News

June 26, 2008

CITY OF TONAWANDA: Sewer trip leads to arrests

Police say an Amherst man is lucky to be alive after he decided to go exploring through six blocks of the City of Tonawanda storm drainage system Wednesday morning.

“It was a recipe for disaster,” said City of Tonawanda Lt. Fredric Foels. “It could have been a tragic situation. The deeper he went into the sewer, if he got overcome by any noxious gasses, we would have had a recovery instead of a rescue.”

James E. Sullivan Jr., 22, of 118 Denrose Drive, and Josh I. Taylor, 23, of 330 Joe McCarthy Drive, Amherst, were charged with criminal trespass and a city ordinance for being in Niawanda Park after 10 p.m.

Armed with flashlights, Sullivan and Taylor entered the storm drain from the former Spaulding Fibre storm sewer discharge, an approximately 4-foot high concrete pipe that empties into the Niagara River.

Sullivan entered first, and Taylor backed out a short time later. After waiting 20 minutes, Taylor lifted man hole covers on Gibson Street, calling down into the storm drain for Sullivan, but heard no response, so he called police.

Tonawanda Fire Department personnel also responded and were obtaining gas level readings in preparation for a search and rescue when officers had Taylor call Sullivan’s family to obtain his cell phone number. As he was doing that, an officer saw a man fitting Sullivan’s description walking east on Niagara Street. The officer stopped Sullivan, who had walked approximately six blocks underground, from the river to Fletcher Elementary School, and was laughing about the incident, police said.

“Man, I can’t believe he called you guys,” Sullivan told the officer.

When reached by phone Wednesday afternoon, Sullivan said he was somewhat inspired by an urban exploration program that aired recently on the Discovery Channel.

“I was just doing a little urban exploration,” he said, adding that he was down there for only a brief time and didn’t see anything interesting. “It was random and stupid.”

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