Updated: 02/06/2014 6:17 PM
Created: 02/05/2014 10:03 PM WHEC.com
By: Joangel Concepcion
Police recover the body of a 21 year old hiker at Letchworth State Park. Park police say the man fell 400 feet into a gorge during a winter hike.
This happened Wednesday afternoon, but police weren’t able to recover the body until Thursday.
State police confirm the victim is 21-year-old Stephen Bzibziak, of North Tonawanda. His family says he was a “wonderful son, brother and friend to all who knew him."
Letchworth Park is open throughout the year, including during the freezing temperatures and even when it is snowing. Although the park is beautiful during this time of year, it does create dangerous conditions.
Rescue teams managed to find the victim’s body just a short distance from where he parked his car at the administration building.
Livingston county 911 got the call shortly before 1:30 Wednesday afternoon. They say the victim was able to talk for a short while and then they lost the call. They managed to locate the area where his body was found through the GPSs in the victim’s cellphone. When state police and state park officials began the search, they found the victim’s footprints in the snow. State park police say the footprints indicated the victim did go off trail. They say he tumbled and fell three to four hundred feet into the gorge.
State police had to use a helicopter to retrieve the body. Rescue teams were not able to do so Wednesday night due to the weather conditions. So it wasn't until Thursday when they were able to go in and bring out the victim’s body. State park officials say they encourage people to visit the park year round but it’s important to be cautious when taking in the scenery.
CPT. Scott Ritchie, NYS Park Police, said, “It's normal for people to come out and hike during this time of year. In fact, we encourage people to come out and use the state park system. It's a beautiful system. We just ask that they respect the natural hazards that exist here, the water and the cliffs. We place walls and we have trails. Stay on the trail and you will have a safe and enjoyable experience.”
J.C. Wells, Letchworth Park visitor, said, “It's just tragic. It's such a beautiful place here at Letchworth with the conditions and as beautiful as it is now, to have someone fall and have a fatal accident like that is just tragic.”
Officials are not able to determine if the victim died due to his injuries or from the exposure to the cold. News10NBC has learned Bzibziak was an experienced sports and an avid hiker so it was not unusual for him to be out here in these conditions.