Near death experience gives unique meaning to work for sheriff's deputy

Posted at 6:53 PM, Jun 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-21 18:53:05-04

For as long as he can remember, Andrew Carriero wanted to be a police officer. But, at age 18, that dream took on a new meaning.

On November 22, 2010, Carriero was hunting in Zoar Valley. He slid 300 feet down the side of a cliff and another 50 feet through the air into Cattaraugus Creek.

"I remember sliding down and I could see the creek and I thought I was going to die," he said.

For five hours, Carriero waited in the water for rescuers to find him. Dozens of agencies helped in the search. It was the Erie County Sheriff's Office, thanks to its helicopter Air 1, that got to him first.

But, it would be several more hours before they could get Carriero out. A six-man rescue team got trapped with Carriero from the rising water levels. The only way out was to go up the cliff.

"I was scared," Carriero said. "I was angry that I was down there. You think about your family and how you want to see them again."

A specialized team of high angle rope rescuers rappelled down and carried the men up the cliff's edge.

Eight years later, Carriero is on the SWAT Team with the Erie County Sheriff's Office. He specializes in the same kind of work that saved his life.

"Obviously it's tough to go and face those cliffs again," he said. "But, when someone's in need of help, that's my way of being there for them just like someone was there for me when I needed it."

Carriero was able to realize his dream of a career in law enforcement. There's no doubt he now knows first-hand the importance of that line of work.

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