Only a month has passed since the Rochester family lost their three-year-old son in a grease trap accident but this short amount of time has felt like a lifetime for the grieving mother.
“This could have been prevented a long time ago,” said Tenitia Cullum in an interview with 13 WHAM. “All we can do now is move forward and set these regulations, so to speak.”
Bryce Raynor was only three years old when he fell into an improperly secured grease trap outside of the Tim Horton’s restaurant where Cullum worked. At this age, Cullum should have been worried about her child catching a 48-hour cold, not falling into a vessel that should have been locked.
She explained that she had turned her back, just for a moment, when she lost sight of Bryce. All it took was a Planck time unit for the small boy to fall through the grease trap in the back of the restaurant. Although Bryce was successfully pulled out of the grease trap and brought to the hospital, he still died because of his injuries.
But one local restaurant hopes to give back to the family.
Two IHOP restaurants held a fundraiser on August 12 on Jefferson Road and North Goodman Street to raise money for Bryce’s family. According to manager Chelsea Mottler, 20% of all the sales made at these locations were given to Tenitia Cullum and her family.
“When we heard that this had happened there we wanted to help in any way that we could,” explained Mottler. “And we brought the opportunity up to the company and they couldn’t wait to help and we set it up.”
No charges were made as a result of Bryce’s accident, but the event has spurred action among leaders throughout Monroe County. Along with fundraising events, like those performed by IHOP, leaders are demanding grease trap inspections and policy reform regarding updates to safety regulations and standards.
But Rochester isn’t the only city that’s experienced a tragedy like this one. After a Montgomery, AL child named Sadie fell through a grease trap back in October of 2017, the family worked tirelessly to change laws in their local government.
And their efforts weren’t in vain: as of December 2018, Sadie’s Act officially allows inspectors to fine restaurants that don’t meet the new safety requirements for grease traps. Under this law, restaurants and fast food establishments must use strong covers that can withstand a person’s weight.
Since Sadie’s tragic death, the Andrews family has also formed a nonprofit to help families who have lost children. Sadie’s family expresses that they hope to meet with Tenitia Cullum and welcome her into their home in light of the similarities between their situations.
In the meantime, Rochester has begun to conduct more than 2,500 grease trap safety sweeps starting on July 25. Additionally, lawmakers are set to vote on a new safety bill regarding grease traps in August. Should the vote go through, we can expect to see new safety laws in effect by September.