ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) - Early Friday morning authorities were able to get the body of a missing man out of a ravine behind Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The search for the 26-year-old David Gerken, Jr. of Palmyra began around 5 a.m. Friday morning. An Air One helicopter, police and fire crews searched throughout the woods behind the stadium before finding Gerken's body in a creek bed. Medical examiners have now determined he died from accidental drowning, and hypothermia may have played a role.
Police say there was no injury to indicate Gerken had been knocked unconscious.
"Its a tragedy to lose somebody. There some people that were looking [for him] since sometime last night," said Orchard Park Police Chief Andrew Benz.
Police say Gerken had come in from the Rochester area for Thursday night's Buffalo Bills game. At one point, police say he became separated from his group and was kicked out of the game around halftime.
PHOTO GALLERY | See the search crews Friday morning in Orchard Park
"They were supposed to meet at one of the local establishments here by the stadium. When he didn't show up the other people called the sheriff's office and reported it. And we got a call again this morning," Chief Benz said.
Officials got a ping from a cellphone tower that gave them the location to search for the body. Authorities looked in the woods behind Shadow Lane in Orchard Park and say the steep terrain made the search tricky.
"We were lucky with the access over on Shadow Lane to follow the power lines. [Then we were] able to start searching using that as a reference point," said Windom Volunteer Fire Chief Nick Lobur.
News 4 was at the scene when the body was recovered and it appeared loved ones were present. They embraced one another after the tragic discovery.
Gerken worked for Heritage Packaging in Greece. His company released a statement saying Gerken was recently promoted to a foreman position and earned the "Employee of the Month" award in August. It added, "Dave was a talented young man who was well liked by all of his co-workers and a valued staff member here at work. His positive attitude and friendly nature will be greatly missed by us all."
Officials said incidents like this are never easy.
Chief Lobur said, "A tragedy such as this we never want to come across. But we do have grief counseling available."
Police have not yet determined if alcohol was a factor in this case and have not determined why Gerken was ejected from the game.
The Buffalo Bills released the following statement:
"We are deeply saddened to hear of this news this morning. While the loss of life is always tragic, the loss of a young life is even more so. Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family. We are currently cooperating with law enforcement officials to find out the details of this unfortunate incident."
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