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Family Wants Answers In Tarrytown Manhole Deaths

TARRYTOWN, N.Y. – A group of Tarrytown residents still want answers about the deaths of John Kelly and Anthony Ruggiero. Others say it's time to move on from the tragedy.

The two factions met during a recent Tarrytown Board of Trustees meeting, where family and friends of the two dead Tarrytown men continued to question the board about the accident.

“We would like answers,” said Maureen Kelly Chebetar, John Kelly's sister. “We have not heard the friggin' truth yet. We just want someone to tell us.”

Kelly and others have presented a petition under the  the Citizens for Better Government of Tarrytown to the board asking them to investigate Village Administrator Michael Blau for his actions before and after the accident. In addition, some in that group have been putting up protest signs on telephone poles and vehicles in the village.

The protest signs, saying things like “Mayor Fixell How Low Can He Go?” and “Two Die You Lie Fire Mike Blau” have offended some residents and supporters of Mayor Drew Fixell and the rest of the Board of Trustees. They say the signs are libelous and a form of bullying.

Tarrytown resident Carole Griffiths admonished the people putting up signs around the village, saying it is causing a terrible atmosphere for the village. This is not the way we want our children to solve their problems, Griffiths said.

“The signs are creepy,” Tarrytown resident Regina Mignogna said. Mignongna later added that she felt the families were pouring salt on their wounds by continuing to demand answers from the village. “How long are you going to continue to rub salt on these wounds?” she asked.

Family and friends of Kelly and Ruggiero have been a constant presence at board meetings for several months. They say the village has not been upfront with them regarding a number of issues, such as whether the village had a confined space program in place at the time of the accident and whether village employees were trained in a confined space program.

Kelly and Ruggiero died after succumbing to fumes in a manhole. A confined space policy would have laid out rules for entering the manhole because spaces such as manholes can often be dangerous.

Fixell and other village employees have stated they are prevented from answering many of the questions put forth by Kelly and Ruggiero's families because they involve strictly personnel issues , pending litigation and investigations. They have asked the families to submit questions in writing so that they can be answered thoughtfully and in an “appropriate” venue.

“I do not wish to be prosecuted in a public meeting,” Fixell said at the meeting after family kept asking questions about the accident.

Several residents at the meeting said they were disappointed in the board's actions and wanted them to actually answer the questions that the family put forth during the meetings instead of shutting them down.

“I voted for you. I want answers from you. I want the seven of you to stand up and do something,” Tarrytown resident Lori Semeraro said. “The village isn't going to heal until we get action from the seven of you.”

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