Grease trap tragedy: 2 years after fatal accident in Rochester, regulations on cusp of becoming NY law

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — This week marks the two-year anniversary of a local toddler dying in a tragic grease trap accident, while legislation to make grease traps safer recently progressed through both chambers of the New York State Legislature.

On July 15, 2019, 3-year old Bryce Raynor died after falling into a grease trap at Tim Horton’s on University Avenue in Rochester.

Rochester police officials described the incident as a “horrible, tragic accident.” The mother of the boy was not charged with a crime as police said it was a “terrible tragedy that happened in seconds.”

In the wake of that tragedy, New York State Assemblyman Harry Bronson and then-Assemblymember Jamie Romeo co-drafted “Bryce’s Law” for new statewide safety regulations regarding grease traps.

We saw that nobody took the initiative to just put out some simple signage that said, ‘Hey, this goes into a large vat into the ground, please have caution,'” said Jamie Romeo, current Monroe County Clerk.

Bronson, who also owns Equal Grounds Coffee House in Rochester’s South Wedge neighborhood, says adding a secure grease trap cover is not a burden.

“It’s common sense to have those safety covers on, to have them secure and to have them made out of material that a young child will not fall through,” Bronson said.

Romeo said she hopes the bill will soon become law to protect as many people as possible.

“It shouldn’t take a large volume of tragedy in order to get the industry to step in in order to self-regulate,” Romeo said. “Quite honestly, that’s the role of government and that’s why we drafted the bill the way we did.”

“Bryce’s Law,” known legally as Senate Bill S3536A, has already passed in the New York State Senate and the New York State Assembly and is expected to arrive at Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk this summer. Local Assemblymember Sarah Clark worked to get the bill approved in the legislature after Romeo became county clerk.

“[The law] would require all food establishments to have a way to cover or protect anyone around a grease trap,” said Assemblymember Sarah Clark. “It would put it into fire and building codes.”

Clark said the bill has potential to become a national law as well.

“I think it would be absolutely important for this small step of protecting, particularly children who are more vulnerable to an accident,” said Clark. “Our thoughts are always with Bryce’s family. Two years later, this is still an unthinkable tragedy.”

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