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Stay Out Stay Alive Fatal Accident Summaries
for 2011

Man Falls 80 Feet in Quarry
Source: Bennington Banner
Jaime Cone

A Wilmington man fell 80 feet to his death Wednesday night while attempting to climb down from the top of the Presby-Leland quarry on Quarry Road in Dummerston. Paul Antignani, 45, was hiking with friend Shane Dessaint when he lost his grip and fell out of sight, according to the Vermont State Police.

Antignani was an employee at New Chapter, a vitamin and supplement manufacturer and distributor in Brattleboro, for more than five years.

"He was a co-worker and very good friend," said Dessaint. "He was a wonderful, down to earth kind of person; everybody loves Paul." No one but Antignani and Dessaint were present in the quarry at the time of the fall. Dessaint called 911, then attempted to locate Antignani. Local agencies responded just before 8:30 p.m.

The West Dummerston Volunteer Fire Department, the Brattleboro Fire Department Dive Team, Rescue Inc. and Vermont State Police, Brattleboro barracks, worked together to quickly locate Antignani. Detectives with the Vermont State Police Bureau of Investigation responded to the scene as well.

Antignani was found on the edge of the water, according to Richard Looman Jr., fire chief of the West Dummerston Volunteer Fire Department.

"It was getting dark, and we spotted the outline of the subject on the shoreline," said Looman, who added that Antignani died as a result of injuries sustained in the fall. Antignani was not using any special climbing or rapelling equipment, Looman said. Antignani's death was confirmed to be untimely and is still under investigation by State Police, Looman said, though police stated in a press release Thursday afternoon that criminal action is not suspected. "We don't suspect there's any criminal intent; however, we need to allow detectives to finish their investigation before we make any other comments about the details of that evening," said Stephanie Dasaro, Vermont State Police public information officer. Antignani's body was transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Burlington for an autopsy.

Eight members of the Brattleboro Police Department, four members of the state police and the state medical examiner responded to the scene, as did about half a dozen Rescue Inc. employees who were released when the incident was determined a fatality, according to Looman.

As it began to get dark, they used flashlights and portable generators for lighting while they conducted their investigation. The scene was cleared around midnight, Looman said. The fire chief said that to his knowledge no one has ever died in the quarry before.

Looman does not recommend that inexperienced climbers attempt to go down into the quarry. "I don't think there should be people there who don't have any rock climbing experience," he said. "People who have experience, the right equipment and the right amount of people, yes. But people down the street? No. It's a vertical drop of more than 100 feet."

The quarry was purchased from the West River Granite Company by the Nature Conservancy about three years ago. Jonathan Binhammer, of Brookfield, director of land protection for the Vermont chapter of the Nature Conservancy, said the organization has attempted to discourage use of the quarry by creating attractive public trails nearby.

He said that about 10 years ago, the quarry was a popular hang-out, with frequent parties and people swimming, activities that the previous owner tried to stop.

"Then a lot of glass and trash was poured into quarry hole, which effectively stopped the use of the quarry," Binhammer said. "When we assumed that area, we made sure it was blocked off to vehicles and put in a trail head further down to encourage people, when they're hiking on the mountain, to hike that trail and not go into the quarry."

The conservancy has 54 preserves across the state, owns about 18,000 acres of preserved land in Vermont and holds regular meetings. Binhammer said the Vermont Chapter will discuss how to more effectively discourage people from using the quarry. "It's very sad, very unfortunate, and we certainly extend our sincerest condolences to the family," he said.