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Records show training, equipment deficient in Craig Lehner's drowning

With only handful of practice dives, officer was probably ill-prepared to handle the hazards of the Niagara River.

The rapid moving and debris-filled water of the Niagara River was unfamiliar territory to Officer Craig Lehner. His previous dives were in relatively calm and contained waters like the Buffalo River and the clear, warm Caribbean where he got his scuba certification.

Last October, Lehner was training with the Buffalo police’s Underwater Recovery Team in the Niagara River, the first time the team had trained there in over a year. While the team’s commander, Detective Leo McGrath, has more than thirty years of diving experience, he is not certified to teach public safety diving.

Lehner drowned and his body was recovered five days later after a frantic search by his teammates and other law enforcement agencies.

Underwater, Lehner lacked the equipment to verbally communicate with his teammates and would have been limited to making signals with the tether line connecting him to his colleagues onshore. Lehner also did not have a piece of equipment that might have enabled him to free himself in the event his tether became tangled and trapped him under water.

Our partners at Investigative Post reviewed more than 130 pages of police records obtained through the state Freedom of Information Law and interviewed six diving professionals. These records and experts suggest that Lehner was inadequately trained and equipped for the dive that led to his death.

You can read the full story, as well as copies of the police records at investigativepost.org

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