The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

September 16, 2012

Still no answers in pond dispute

— A Stoystown couple whose pond was drained by contractors working at the Flight 93 National Memorial still have not received compensation for the damage to their property.

“Unfortunately nothing has changed,” George Lasure said. “We’re still at the same position.”

The incident, which occurred sometime last year, killed all aquatic life in the pond – and more importantly to the family – ruined the spot they revered for its memories of their deceased daughter.

Brianna Lynn Lasure, a teacher, was 29 when she was killed in a car accident on Nov. 27, 2008. She was on her way home to celebrate Thanksgiving with her family.

Her father said the pond was very special.

“This was a pond I fished with my daughter,” he said. “They stole my memories.”

The pond is on property Lasure owns in Shade Township about a mile and a half from the memorial’s entrance.

According to a witness, trucks, later identified as those working at the memorial, ignored no-trespassing signs when they came onto Lasure’s land.

They allegedly took the water without permission, mixed it with seed mulch in a process known as hydroseeding and spread it on memorial grounds.

By the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, the lands around the Flight 93 Memorial were lush and beautiful, but Lasure’s pond was dead.

 Biologists told the owner the pond had been drained “so low, the water heated up and it killed all the fish in there.” They estimated it would cost between $10,000 and $15,000 to restore the pond to its former healthy condition. That could take up to five years.

Although the parties involved do not deny wrongdoing, each denies responsibility.

“It’s really a private matter between the subcontractor and the landowner,” Lindy Allen, a National Park Service spokeswoman, said last month.

The work was being done by Wallace & Pancher Construction Inc. of Hermitage, Mercer County, and Kinsley Construction of York.

For its part, a representative for Kinsley said the matter rested with Wallace & Pancher.

“(It) does not involve a dispute with us, but rather one between Mr. and Mrs. Lasure and the landscape contractor, Arrow Wallace Pancher,” the company said through its attorney.

Wallace & Pancher has not responded to requests for comment.

Lasure, who, with his wife, Eileen, have an attorney working on the case, said the costs continue to pile up.

“I have no idea how much we have spent on this,” he said. “It is getting ridiculous. I think the companies know this and they are just hoping we let it go because we can’t afford it anymore.

“It seems that if a person doesn’t have the financial means, you can’t get justice. That is more appalling to me than anything.”

But the Lasures are not about to let the matter drop.

“It’s never been about the money,” George Lasure said. “I’m in no way, shape or form trying to profit from the death of my daughter. It’s about right or wrong.

“What would happen if I went on National Park land and pumped water out of their pond?”

Friends of the family have created a Facebook page to raise awareness of the situation. More than 200 people signed a petition on the site calling for justice for the family.

“(We are) overwhelmed by how people all over the country find this violation appalling and outright wrong,” Eileen Lasure said.

Local politicians have pledged their help.

“Our office is working with county and federal officials to ensure that Mr. Lasure is rightfully compensated and that this never happens again, to any property owner,” said Matt Mazonkey, chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Mark Critz, D-Johnstown.

“We’re going to work hard to right this wrong.”

George Lasure just can’t understand.

“If I did damage and it was wrong and I admitted that, I would do whatever was necessary to fix it. Why in the world would they not right the wrong?”

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