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Teen Dies in Fall from Fort Lee Cliff

Area rescue crews were called to Palisades Interstate Park late Friday night. School officials confirm that the 16-year-old victim was "one of our kids."

A 16-year-old boy from Fort Lee died when he fell off a cliff in Fort Lee’s section of the Palisades Interstate Park, near the George Washington Bridge late Friday, police said.

The East Bergen rappel team was called after the teen fell off the cliff around 9:45 p.m. Friday, said Fort Lee Fire Chief Keith Sabatino. Rescuers used a fire department tower ladder truck and helicopter team to reach the victim.

Palisades Interstate Parkway Police said emergency crews had difficulty reaching the teen because of the time of night, remote location, and cliff-side hazards.

The teen was walking with a 16-year-old girl from Edgewater when the incident occurred, according to PIP police. The girl, who called 911 when the fall took place, told police that she and her friend were near the edge of the cliff when he fell backward — going over the cliff.

Police said they did determine that the victim was beyond a safety railing which was put in place to prevent people from being near the unsafe area of the cliff’s edge.

The cause of the fall is not considered suspicious but is still under investigation, police said. The cause of death is under investigation by the Medical Examiner’s Office.

Emergency crews remained at the scene, near the GWB’s north tower, early Saturday. Teams from the Fort Lee Fire Department, Port Authority Police and NYPD Emergency Service Units, Cliffside Park Fire Department, Palisades Interstate Parkway Police and Teaneck Fire Department's Box 54 Support Services Unit were at the scene. 

Police did not release the teen's name, but school officials confirmed the victim was  junior John Graniello.

Fort Lee Board of Education president Arthur Levine said the district had been informed of the student's death. 

“Fort Lee police confirmed to us that it was one of our kids,” Levine told Patch. “[Interim Superintendent of Schools Steven Engravalle] is en route. A team is being assembled, and unfortunately, we have experience with this.”

He added, “We’re assembling our crisis team, no different than we did during the last tragedy.”

Engravalle posted a letter to parents, guardians and community memberson the school district’s website addressing the incident. 

“Without question, all our thoughts and sympathies remain with his family and friends during this most heartbreaking time,” Engravalle said in the letter. “Most certainly, this shocking loss is certain to raise many emotions, concerns and questions for our entire school community, especially our students.”

According to Engravalle, members of the Crisis Response Team will be “available to meet with students individually and in groups” Monday.

Classmates took to Twitter and Facebook to express their grief over Graniello's death.

"I'm in absolute devastation right now RIP," wrote Twitter friend @xOAyshianxo. "@johngraniello you will be truly missed."

"rip ❤ you were such a sweet kid," added @kiajano. "I guess it's true, the good do die young. You're forever in my heart."

The incident marked the second time this school year that a Fort Lee High School student has died. A 10th-grader at the school in December, the last time the school district’s had to mobilize.

Information regarding funeral arrangements will be released by the school district as soon as it is available, according to Engravalle, who added, “If your child wishes to attend, we strongly encourage you to accompany him or her to the service.”

Ottmar Pak June 09, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Awful. Thoughts are with the family.
andrew taylor June 10, 2012 at 02:49 PM
john was a grteat kid he has great parents how could you not know how special this kid was. he will be missed by many i knew him well, as Mike his father and i work together and john and my daughter where born 1 week apart. Mike his father and i where so happy as he was a miracle child. god bless john and rest in peace.
D.G. June 10, 2012 at 07:40 PM
WOW! I was there just thursday with a friend of mine hiking. It really is a beautiful spot to explore, especially around these parts where there are no woods, but you definitely have to be extremely careful around those edges. They do have the safety barricades there but it is totally up to you to take such a risk and get closer to the edge. I really hope they do not shut down the park or put up big fences because that will just ruin the view. Obviously I feel sorry for the kid and mean no disrespect as per the view comment, but your safety relies in yourself and the precautions you should take getting so close. R.I.P JOHN
Sal Garritano June 10, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Show some compassion Randall. Racial slurs and ignorance have no place on this forum loser
carol simon June 11, 2012 at 12:21 AM
Andrew Taylor, you really touched me with your heartfelt words for John and his family. Having a 16 year old son who knows John , his tragic death has become close to home. How painful and tragic this accident is to the family who lost their loving son and to his friends and the entire community, we mourn the loss of John. My son asked what I would do if ithis happened to him as he is identifying with John .....the feeling so painful that no one should ever have to go there. Heartfelt sympathy
Tony Kosova June 11, 2012 at 01:50 AM
My Deepest Condolences to the Graniello family.
ML June 11, 2012 at 08:02 PM
I did not know John or his family, but being a resident of Fort Lee, hearing this terrible news broke my heart. A child will always be a child to his parents - no matter what age they are. My family and I send our deepest condolences to John's family, friends and community. This was a terrible tragedy and we should all pray for John and his family. May you all find strength. Every parent only dreams of seeing their child grow up and always be with them. No parent should ever outlive their child. Deepest condolences. ML
JA June 12, 2012 at 03:36 PM
I knew John because he was in my Television Production crew in my local high school. The entire crew had great times due in great part to John. My deepest condolences go out to the Graniello family.
Tee Smyth June 12, 2012 at 06:39 PM
God Bless him and his family. Special prayers to those students. One of the hardest things that I faced in high school was when one of my friends died, tragically. That time was such a haunting experience and it took months to somewhat recover. I implore the kids to use whatever resources are available to them.

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