PENDLETON, N.Y. — 10-year-old Benjamin Wasik died while playing in a snow bank on his grandparent's farm in upstate New York on Wednesday.
The large pile of snow had been pushed up against the side of a barn on the property by a plown, said James Voutour, Niagara County Sheriff.
“It was a pretty significant amount of snow, and it would be attractive to a 10-year-old boy,” Niagara County Sheriff James Voutour said in a press conference Thursday afternoon regarding the accident.
Voutour said that the boy’s father was working nearby and was keeping a close eye on him, but Ben disappeared into the snow. It wasn't clear as of Thursday whether the boy was digging in the snow pile or fell into the drift.
“When (Ben's father) didn't see him, he got off his tractor and started looking for him,” Voutour said.
Niagara County Sheriff's deputies believe that the boy was under the snow for 20 minutes and went into cardiac arrest, which was consistent with his body temperature.
Niagara County Sheriff's office dispatchers gave instructions to the family on how to do CPR. Sheriff's deputies and Twin City Ambulance arrived on scene a few minutes later and tried to restart his heart using a defibrillator. The boy was then taken directly to Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital in Amherst.
Ben's cause of death was ruled as asphyxiation by entrapment.
The sheriff's department is investigating the incident, but based on its investigation and a verbal report from the autopsy, it's being deemed as an accident, Capt. Bruce Elliott, who is leading the investigation, said.
Ben's parents had warned him to stay away from the snow pile, Voutour said.
“These are excellent parents,” Voutour said. “The Wasiks are a large family in Pendleton —they're great people — and very good parents.”
Tragedies such as this one are not unheard of. In December, two boys became trapped in a snowbank after digging a fort in Greenwhich, New York, about 300 miles east of where Wasik died.
One of the boys, 13-year-old Joshua Demarest died after being crushed by the fallen snow. His 12-year-old friend Tyler Day, was lucky to have survived after being found alive, but was admitted to the hospital for hypothermia, CNN reported in December.
Voutour said it is common for people to overlook the dangers of snow. On the way to the hospital on Wednesday, he saw three other groups of children playing on snowbanks in different locations.
“I wanted to stop at all three and tell them to get down,” Voutour said. “Obviously they were fine — snowbanks can be dangerous, but this was so out of the ordinary.”
Lynch writes for the Lockport, New York Union-Sun & Journal.