A small New York town is reeling after a 10-year-old boy died tragically this week after apparently being smothered in a snowbank.
Authorities in Niagara County believe Benjamin Wasik climbed atop a 15-foot snowbank Wednesday before he became trapped.
"The parents did everything they could to keep an eye on him and as soon as they didn't see him they started to look for him," Sheriff James Voutour told WIVB.
The sheriff said Benjamin was trapped under the snow for about 20 minutes by the time first responders arrived, soon after being called.
"The first responders did an excellent job yesterday under very difficult circumstances. I think all their efforts gave the best possible scenario for Ben to survive. Unfortunately in this business we don't save everybody," the sheriff said.
The parents of the boy have not spoken publicly in the wake of the tragedy. Sheriff Voutour asked that they be given privacy.
"They're great people, they're known by a large number of our deputies. Some of our first responders knew them, knew the little boy, that were at that scene," he said.
Benjamin was a fourth grader in the Starpoint School District, whose superintendent, Dr. Sean Croft, released the following statement after Benjamin's death:
It is with great sadness that we share the news of the tragic, accidental death of Benjamin Wasik, a 4th grade student at Regan Intermediate School. The entire Starpoint community expresses our sincere condolences to the Wasik family and friends. Benjamin will be greatly missed and will always be a part of the Starpoint family.
I was made aware of the tragic news Wednesday afternoon through the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office and our team immediately began planning to provide appropriate emotional support to students and staff on Thursday morning. The District Crisis Team met early Thursday morning and finalized a plan to provide support to the students and staff. Extra care was given to students in the child’s classroom. Throughout the day, psychologists, counselors, social workers have been meeting with students and staff to assist them in working through the grieving process.
It is our utmost priority to support the wellbeing of our students in the difficult days and weeks ahead. This afternoon a letter will be sent home to all parents with students in the Regan Intermediate School. The parent letter indicates that each student may react differently to a tragic occurrence such as this. We are encouraging parents to listen carefully to their children, answer questions openly and honestly, and let them know it may not be possible to answer all of their questions. We are also reassuring parents that appropriate social/emotional support systems will be in place at Starpoint to assist students in the days and weeks ahead.