Probe into cop drowning voted top story of ’18

An investigation by Daniela Porat that documented how Buffalo police put diver Craig Lehner in harm’s way was voted by readers as Investigative Post’s best story of 2018.

Porat’s deeply researched story reported that Lehner, who drowned during a training exercise in October 2017, was not sufficiently trained and equipped to handle the swift currents of the Niagara River.

Wrote Porat:

“Trainees for swift water diving elsewhere typically start out in water moving somewhere between 1 and 4 knots, or under 5 miles per hour. But the Niagara River on the day Lehner trained – and drowned – was moving at a much faster clip – between 8 and 12 knots, or up to nearly 14 miles per hour.

Lehner’s family subsequently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city.

Porat covered criminal justice for Investigative Post for two years before leaving in July. She is now a reporting fellow at ProPublica.

Stories by Charlotte Keith garnered the second- and third-most votes in our online poll. One report documented how Buffalo is not enforcing its fair housing law; the other detailed the poor return state taxpayers are receiving for one of the major Buffalo Billion projects.

A year ago, readers selected another Porat story on abuses by the police department’s Strike Force as top story.

Previous winners, all produced by former Investigative Post reporter Dan Telvock, involved lead poisoning in Buffalo’s inner-city (2016); the checkered history of Greenleaf and Co. (2015); pollution choking Scajaquada Creek (2014); and the danger posed by pollution at Gallagher Beach (2013).