A Paterson firefighter killed while riding his mountain bike in an Essex County park two years ago did not know of dangerous conditions in the area, including a steep cliff with no barriers or warning signs, his widow states in a recently filed lawsuit.
Kerry James Rivera, a 13-year member of the fire department, died June 26, 2017 after the mountain bike he was riding plunged 20 feet off a cliff in a wooded reservation near the Cedar Grove Reservoir. Rivera, 50, had taken up bike riding a couple of months earlier and was with his brother when the accident occurred about 9 a.m. that day, officials have said.
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Rena Mason Rivera, his wife, is suing Cedar Grove and Montclair townships, Essex County and Mills Reservation Park, calling the cliff where her husband lost his life unsafe for recreational use.
“He lost control of his bike, went off the trail and plummeted off an unguarded and unsecured cliff to his demise,” the woman’s attorney, Gary S. Shapiro of Englishtown, wrote in the suit, filed in Essex County Superior Court.
The lawsuit claims local police, park employees and others employed by the county “knew or should have known the existence of (the) unreasonably hazardous, defective condition through reasonable inspection.”
Due to gross negligence, Rivera “was caused to suffer great pain, suffering, physiological and neurological injuries, anguish, emotional distress and hedonic damages,” the suit states. In addition, the family incurred “great financial expense related to medical care and funeral bills,” the suit states.
The lawsuit seeks a jury trial and monetary damages to be determined in court.
In an answer filed Aug. 6, Essex County states that Rivera was partly to blame for his own death. “Plaintiff assumed the risk inherent in the activity engaged in by the plaintiff,” the county’s lawyer, Courtney M. Gaccione, wrote in the answer.
“Any injuries and/or damages allegedly sustained by plaintiff were caused by the joint and/or intentional acts of plaintiffs, co-defendants, and/or third parties over whom (Essex County) had no control,” Gaccione wrote.
The county attorneys also stated Rivera’s death “was the result of an unavoidable accident or circumstances for which the (county is) not liable.”
Katya Wowk, spokeswoman for Montclair, said Friday the township does not comment on pending litigation.
Cedar Grove Township Manager Thomas Tucci did not return a call seeking comment.
Kerry and Rena Rivera, who were married for 25 years, had three children together. A GoFundMe page set up to help the family raised over $18,000.
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