SMITHTOWN, N.Y. - A snow plow might have jarred loose the cover of a sewage pit where a teenager doughnut shop worker fell and died while taking out the trash, investigators said Monday.
Amiri Zeqiri, 17, slipped into an open cesspool behind a Dunkin' Donuts Sunday night in Smithtown, about 40 miles east of New York City, police said. There usually was a manhole cover over the cesspool, a hole in the ground that collects waste from toilets and sinks, they said.
The teen's younger cousin, who was inside the doughnut shop, realized something was wrong when he didn't return and went to look for him. The cousin found Zeqiri in about 8 feet of water and ran to a nearby store for help, but when he returned the teen was no longer visible, police said.
Officers pulled the teen from the cesspool and took him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Authorities were investigating how the cesspool was uncovered and were awaiting the results of an autopsy.
Yvonne Lieffrig, Smithtown's attorney, said that the property owner had nine summonses pending for zoning violations involving "parking lot maintenance" but that none involved the cesspool.
Homicide detectives said that it does not appear the cover was removed intentionally but that the investigation continues. One theory was that a snowplow might have jarred it loose.
There was no answer at a New York City phone number for the property owner, identified by Lieffrig as JKH Realty Corp.
Andrew Mastrangelo, a spokesman for Canton, Mass.-based Dunkin' Brands Inc., said the company and franchisee Jesse Walia were saddened to learn of the death.
It's not the first time someone has died in a Long Island cesspool _ typically a large hole in the ground lined with rocks to filter the sewage before it's absorbed into the earth and usually covered with a lid.
In June 2007, a landscaper was killed after driving a lawnmower into one at a Deer Park home. In July 2006, a worried woman who went to check on her 76-year-old aunt found her in a 10-foot-deep cesspool in the front yard of her Huntington home.
And in September 2001, a Huntington man practicing archery in his backyard with his children died when an 18-foot-deep cesspool caved in and swallowed him.