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Good Samaritan Swept Away in Sewer System in Syracuse During Thunderstorm

John Smith / WAER News

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner confirmed Wednesday morning that a 28 year-old man is presumed dead following severe weather Tuesday night.  He was assisting other motorists caught in a flash flood; however his body has yet to be found.  The incident happened at the intersection of East Fayette and Croly Streets at the peak of the storm. 28 year-old Brandon Closure and his female passenger managed to push their vehicle out of waist-high water. Miner says he then noticed other stranded motorists who were also in distress.

 “… The three people then attempted to push the vehicle out. Mr. Closure got close to the car and as he did, he stepped next to or on top of an open manhole cover to the sewer system. At which point, he was sucked into the system.”

Officials say the sewer manhole cover design is engineered to open during storm surges and Miner says it was not a failure of the system.  Department of Public Works Commissioner Pete O’Connor was dispatched to the scene.

“What happens is the sewer system gets totally filled to capacity and the water was flowing unbelievably fast. When I got there, when we removed the manhole cover, again, to see where the gentlemen went in; I could not believe how fast that water was and how high it was.”

During the peak of Thursday night’s thunderstorm, rain fell at a rate of 1.5 inches within a half hour. Mayor Miner wants people to do the right thing during severe weather as she expects more flash flooding this summer with very saturated ground conditions.

Credit John Smith / WAER News
John Smith / WAER News
The morning after the tragedy, this is the view of the intersection where Brandon Closure was last seen.

“I think this is a real opportunity to have a real object lesson here at this tradgedy of somebody who was being a good Samaritan. And that is to say to people in our community, that there are dangers that you may not be aware of or you might not think about. And that’s why if you can’t see the ground, do not be there. Whether they’re manhole covers or electricity or other utilities; that’s why we have experts from the Police Department, the Fire Department and the Department of Public works who are there.”

The search for Closure’s body continues. Mayor Miner says a specialized camera system is being used to look into the sewer system below. She says Tuesday night’s storm has been rated as a 25 year level storm. That’s because the average rainfall for the month June is 3.3 inches. Last night, 2.6 inches fell during a single storm event.