ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Tenitia Cullum, the mother of the 3-year-old boy who died after falling into a grease trap, spoke with News 8 WROC Monday.
Cullum’s son, Bryce Raynor, suffocated after falling into a grease trap behind the Tim Hortons on University Avenue last week.
“It was a normal day. Woke up, Bryce was asleep, I was just getting ready for work,” Cullum said. “He didn’t have to go to daycare that day, so I was going to leave him. It was just a normal day. Then babysitting arrangements got tangled up at the last minute, so I just took him with me. This wasn’t the first time he has come with me to work, and it was fine the first time, so I brought him — so ‘OK you’re going to come to work with me.’ So I woke him up I said ‘good morning,’ he said ‘good morning mommy.’”
Just a few hours later, a large police presence responded around 11 a.m. to Tim Hortons after Cullum reported Bryce was missing.
“I turned back around, to grab the other boxes, and when I turned back around, I didn’t see him,” Cullum said.
That’s when tragedy struck. A witness who discovered the boy in the grease trap attempted to give him CPR at the scene. The boy was then transported to Strong Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The following day, police announced no charges would be filed against Cullum in connection to the incident.
“She was working her shift, and like most parents at one time or another, including myself, apparently had no one to watch her child,” RPD Investigator Frank Camp said in a press release last Tuesday. “This was a sad, terrible tragedy that happened in seconds.”
Cullum says her son was a magnet, who people were naturally drawn to. When asked if there’s one thing she would like people to know about Bryce, she said:
“Purity, his happiness,” Cullum said. “He was a happy little boy, a happy little boy.”
“It’s a horrible, tragic accident,” Camp said last week.
A tragedy that will forever leave a hole in this mother’s heart.
“He was three going on 13,” Cullum said. “He knew what he wanted, very bubbly, very loving, very forgiving, very active — he was just a very bubbly spirit, a very loving spirit. He didn’t see any bad in anybody. He loved everybody. He would run into people when we were out on a normal day and he would say ‘hey’ to everybody and he would bring smiles to everyone we met. He was a very good boy. He was a very good boy.”
In the wake of what happened, local New York State Assembly members Harry Bronson (D-138) and Jamie Romeo (D-136) submitted new legislation regarding the safety of grease traps. Their proposal calls for stronger trap materials, a securing mechanism, signage to display the grease traps, and annual inspections.
Grease traps are plumbing systems that must be located outside any building with the “capacity to serve group meals,” including restaurants, according to Monroe County code. The main component of a grease trap is a storage tank, designed to prevent fats, oils, and grease from pan-cleaning and food production out of the sanitary sewer systems.
The grease trap at the University Avenue Tim Hortons location was located in an open area in the back of the restaurant. Police say the lid to the grease trap’s tank was not only made of plastic, but was left unsecured over the 2-3 feet diameter of the trap. They say Bryce must have stepped on the unsecured lid, causing it to open up, and trap him below.