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I-TEAM: Hazards discovered in Niagara River where Lehner’s dive began

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) – Nearly two months after Buffalo Police Officer Craig Lehner went missing in the Niagara River, there are still many questions about his death during a routine training dive.

Both Buffalo police homicide investigators and investigators from the state Public Employee Safety and Health Bureau are looking into the diver’s death.  

The investigation has been ongoing for weeks. Representatives from PESH will not comment on where their investigation stands, but Buffalo police have said Lehner likely got caught on something underwater.

During the five-day long search in the Niagara River, many different agencies were called to assist in the search for Lehner’s body.

That includes the Army Corps of Engineers.

“It’s a dangerous waterway–probably one of the most dangerous,” said Roman Figler, Chief of Surveys from the Army Corps.

The inherent danger is in the current, which Figler says is very fast.  

But what’s beneath the water, near where Lehner’s dive started at Broderick Park, poses a bigger problem.  

The problem isn’t just for divers but potentially for recreational boaters, too. “There are three cars and a truck.  I’m not sure how they got there, but they’re there,” Figler said.

Figler uses 3-D sonar images as proof of what’s under the water.  The images map out what’s on the bottom and shows how uneven it is 20-feet or so down.

The scans were taken in real time during the initial days of the search.  

“You could narrow down to smaller areas where the person to be recovered would be and maybe even find that person, ” Jessie Petit said.  Petit is a technician, who maps out the river for the Army Corps.

The equipment the Army Corps is using is so advanced, it can detect something as small as a basketball underwater.  That’s why this technology was used to find Lehner’s body.   Divers who were on scene the day Lehner went missing are now being interviewed by detectives.  

The 7 Eyewitness News I-Team has learned this was Lehner’s first dive in…

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