Hochul tells 7 News she’d be ‘happy’ to look into Morse death

Published: Jul. 28, 2022 at 6:00 PM EDT
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CLAYTON, New York (WWNY) - Governor Kathy Hochul says she would be “happy to take a serious look” at the circumstances surrounding the death of Watertown firefighter trainee Peyton Morse.

Morse, 21, died in March of last year after an incident at the state Fire Training Academy in Montour Falls.

Hochul, on a stop over in Clayton Thursday afternoon, made her first public comments on Morse’s death in response to questions from 7 News.

I have to find out the facts and circumstances, what led to it, and whether there was any kind of negligence involved. I want to find out exactly what happened,” she said.

A state safety group did an investigation, state police did an investigation as well, but Morse’s parents - frustrated by what they see as a lack of answers - have called on the governor to get involved.

Morse suffered a medical emergency during a training exercise, while wearing a breathing apparatus. The state safety investigation did not cite the Academy or instructors for doing anything wrong. But Morse’s parents say the Academy is a place where recruits are bullied and hazed, and Morse was pushed too far by instructors.

Morse’s fellow trainees have said they watched as instructors yelled at Morse, even though he was unconscious and not breathing.

Last week, New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office said it had few options for investigating the matter, but one of them is a referral from the governor.

Hochul was in Clayton to announce the village will be receiving more than $6 million in state “resiliency” money for four projects, including replacing and repairing docks and elevating the village’s river walk.

In a statement to 7 News, following the press conference, a spokesperson for the Governor’s Office wrote:

“There are several independent investigations surrounding the death of Firefighter Peyton Morse which members of the State Office of Fire Prevention and Control (OFPC) are already participating in. OFPC has and will continue to be fully cooperative throughout the course of these ongoing investigations.”

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