Landscaper dies after fall into cesspool
BY SOPHIA CHANG
June 12, 2007, 10:31 PM EDT
A Central Islip landscaper died Tuesday of his injuries after falling into a cesspool while cutting a Deer Park lawn and being crushed by the quarter-ton mower, police said.
Around noon, Sergio Reyes, 34, was mowing the backyard of a Commack Road home while another employee from PM Landscaping of Central Islip worked on the front yard, police said.
The other landscaper, whose name was not released, went to the backyard and discovered Reyes trapped in the block-lined cesspool, his head above the liquid, with his lawn mower pinning him to the wall, police said.
While using the mower, Reyes had clipped the lid of the cesspool, causing it to give way, police said. The lid was below the surface, covered with grass and dirt and not readily visible, they said.
They said the landscapers were using a Wright Stander, a lawn mower the operator stands on while using it.
Police did not say how heavy the mower was, but the Stander weighs anywhere from 600 to 765 pounds, according to a Huntington Station lawn mower retailer not connected with the incident.
The other landscaper called for help and held Reyes’ arms above the liquid in the eight-foot-deep cesspool, police said.
Reyes was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip, where he died from his injuries, police said.
"It seems like a tragic accident," said Det. Sgt. Paul Dodorico of the Suffolk County Homicide Squad. While he said criminal charges were not likely to be filed, he added that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was investigating the accident.
The owner of PM Landscaping, Pedro Martinez, is Reyes’ cousin and rushed to the scene. “I was going crazy, trying to get him out,” said Martinez, 36, of Central Islip. "We tried to pull the machine out."
Bob LiPetri, son of the homeowner, Frank LiPetri, said the cesspool was built when his father bought the house in 1947. Bob LiPetri said he checks the cesspool to make sure the grass above is not caving in and the lid, made of concrete, is not deteriorating. “It was in good shape,” he said. "There was nothing wrong with it."
After moving to America from Usulutan, El Salvador, about 14 years ago, Reyes had lived with his mother Anna Amaya in a modest home on Ferndale Blvd. family said.
He had a young daughter, Katherine, who lived in a different home with Reyes’ wife Denise, from whom he is separated.
Reyes once had his own landscaping business and installed sprinklers, but recently started working for Martinez.
"He was a hard worker, a good father, a good husband, a good son," said his cousin, Felipe Diaz, 61, of Brentwood.
**Last year, a woman died after falling into a cesspool near her Elwood home and two men in ****Huntington were rescued from a fall down a cesspool. **
Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.