When William and Amanda Green took their two boys on a weekend outing, they headed for the Zoar Valley Gorge, a rugged area not far from their Buffalo, New York, home that includes waterfalls, forests and cliffs that plunge as much as 40 stories.
But a summer hike turned tragic when both parents were found dead Sunday near a creek at the bottom of the gorge. Their 4-year-old son, Alexander, was nearby with severe injuries, and their 7-year-old, Jacob, though less severely injured, was found hours later wandering the gorge floor alone.
Police on Monday were still trying to piece together exactly how the tragedy unfolded, though they said it appeared that the parents and Alexander fell about 200 feet (60 meters) down the cliff.
“It’s sheer. It drops straight down,” Erie County sheriff’s spokesman Scott Zylka said of the area where the family was found.
“It is a gorge,” added Capt. Daniel Richter, a New York state forest ranger. “It’s like anything else. You don’t want to get too close to the edge. There have been accidents. There have been fatalities. It’s just the nature of the area.”
The valley is a popular hiking and kayaking spot 35 miles (56 kilometers) south of Buffalo. With shale cliffs and the whitewater Cattaraugus Creek running through the gorge, it can attract hundreds of visitors on a typical summer day.
According to Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard, two hikers trekking through the bottom of the gorge came across the Greens’ bodies. The injured 4-year-old was nearby.
“The first two hikers who found the bodies did…
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