Buffalo police didn’t participate in dive training

Eight months after Buffalo Police Officer Craig Lehner drowned in the Niagara River’s fast currents, divers from several local law enforcement agencies participated in a three-day swift water dive training in Amherst and Tonawanda.

Officers from the Buffalo Police Underwater Recovery Team did not participate, however. A department spokesperson did not respond to calls and a text from Investigative Post inquiring as to why the department didn’t participate.

Over the past several months, Investigative Post has exposed the failure of the Buffalo police dive team to adequately train and equip Lehner for that fatal dive in the Niagara River last October.

This weekend’s program, led by Dive Rescue International, mixed classroom instruction with practice in the Sweet Home High School pool and diving exercises in the Niagara River by the City of Tonawanda. There, the water, though moving at a quick clip of 4 knots, provides a safe environment to train in swift water diving.

Lehner was in a part of the Niagara River, near Bird Island Pier, where currents can range from 8 to 15 knots. As Investigative Post previously reported, training exercises for swift water diving  should be conducted in water moving between 1 to 4 knots.

Jeff Morgan, one of the instructors, did not want to speak specifically about Lehner’s fatal dive.

“We really tried to instill the safety aspect of diving in this type of environment,” he said about the mission of this intensive program. “Current diving can be extremely dangerous.”

Trainees during the exercises that ended Monday were provided with electronic communications and a “quick release snap shackle,” which allows a diver to quickly disconnect from a tether in the event of an emergency. Lehner was not provided those two pieces of equipment.

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The program brought together 25 divers from five agencies, including Rochester Police, Ellicott Creek Volunteer Fire Company and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, plus support staff and resources from other local and federal law enforcement.

“It provided the opportunity for several agencies to all come together and work together and learn each other’s capabilities,” said Morgan. “So in the event that they have to have an emergency in the water, they’re certainly capable of handling it.”