Most-Read Stories Run The Whole Gamut Of Human Emotion

The Post-Journal has published more than 4,000 bylined stories through Christmas Day.

Readers’ favorites run the gamut of subjects from tragedy to heartwarming remembrances to shocking news happening in your neighborhoods. Here is a recap of the 10 stories that garnered the most attention from readers this year on post-journal.com.

TRAGIC ACCIDENT

Last January, the Lakewood community mourned the tragic death of Justin L. Romaniuk, 19, in a car accident on Route 60. Romaniuk was a 2015 graduate of Southwestern Central School and was studying at the University of Buffalo.

Later in the year, Justin’s mother remembered her son’s knack for troubleshooting electronics, playing video games and collecting high-end sneakers.

“We just don’t know what happened,” Linda Romaniuk told The Post-Journal’s Eric Tichy. “Was he still sick? Did he fall asleep? There are just so many questions that we don’t know.”

Justin graduated from Southwestern Central School in 2015 and attended Jamestown Community College for a year before transferring to the University at Buffalo. He was studying mathematics and had plans to become a math teacher.

He played soccer while in high school, a sport he played since grade school, though it was in the classroom where he truly excelled. He was a member of the National Honor Society, and while in school he received the New York State Comptroller Achievement Award, President’s Education Award and named Student of the Year at JCC in 2015.

Though her son was sharp in school, Linda joked that he had a tendency to lose things easily. “He could be looking for something that was right in front of him,” she said.

Among several jobs, Justin worked as a tutor at JCC. His patience with others was noted by many friends and relatives.

“He really would have made an excellent teacher,” Linda said. “And he loved his teachers, especially the ones he had a connection with. He thought they were great. The people at Southwestern school were so great; whole community was. There were so many people at his funeral.”

Many of Justin’s friends wrote letters to the family, sharing stories, anecdotes and other random memories they had with him. Linda said she didn’t read the letters for several months. It wasn’t until she spoke to The Post-Journal she began to go through the stories.

Among some of the anecdotes Justin’s friends shared: Justin’s soccer ball’s name was Pelican; he drank chocolate milk until it made him sick; his favorite color was blue; he loved turtles; he was notorious for losing his wallet and keys.

Another friend, Andrew, wrote to the family: “While I may not have known him as long as some people, Justin was one of my best friends at college. He was also someone who I could always count on to help me get through tough times.

“He would always brighten my day whenever I saw his unforgettable smile or heard his little ‘hehe’ chuckle. He was always willing to help me with schoolwork, without hesitation.”

A TRUE FACEBOOK FRIEND

In August, The Post-Journal’s A.J. Rao wrote of a Chautauqua County 911 dispatcher’s surprise phone call from Ireland.

On the morning of July 27, around 10 a.m., Steve McAninch, a senior dispatcher with more than 30 years of service with the Sheriff’s Office, answered one of the more unusual calls of his career, one in which a man with a strong Irish accent warned him of a local woman in trouble.

“I asked at one point, ‘how do I know this isn’t a scam?'” McAninch said. “The (caller) replied, ‘you’re just going to have to trust us.'”

The voice belonged to a member of Facebook Security out of the company’s European Headquarters in Dublin, Ireland. Apparently, someone reported to them that a 24-year-old woman had posted threats of harming herself on her Facebook page.

When security personnel traced the woman’s IP address to a Windstream account in Western New York, they contacted the 911 center in Mayville to report the finding.

“We couldn’t access her Facebook page and (Facebook Security) thought Windstream would be able to give us her location,” McAninch said.

The IP address, of course, could not pinpoint what device the woman was using. Instead, McAninch used a cellphone number that Facebook Security said was attached to the woman’s account.

“We contacted the cellphone provider (Verizon Wireless) in an attempt to locate the phone, thinking if we found the phone, we would find her,” McAninch said.

Verizon Wireless was able to provide a ballpark location of the phone in Steamburg, a rural hamlet in the town of Coldspring. McAninch informed the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office, who apparently had the woman’s name flagged in its system for previous mental health issues.

By noon, just two hours after the initial call from Ireland, police located the woman at a Steamburg home. Still conscious, the woman had reportedly swallowed a number of over-the-counter pills and appeared to have superficial cuts on her body. She was taken to UPMC Chautauqua WCA for treatment.

“It was just like any other call where we have to track down people … this caller just originated from Ireland,” he said. “I just happened to answer the phone … it could have been anybody.”

A SHOCKING INCIDENT

Just this month, area residents were shocked to read of a domestic incident in which a Jamestown man who was on the Jamestown Police Department’s Top 10 Most Wanted list allegedly doused a woman with a flammable substance and set her on fire.

A Chautauqua County Grand Jury will hear evidence in the case of Luis M. Castro-Mojica, 37.

Jamestown police responded Tuesday around 11:35 p.m. Dec. 6 to 210 Thayer St. where they found a 27-year-old woman with burns to her face, head and torso.

The woman was taken to UPMC Chautauqua WCA and immediately airlifted to the Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo. She was listed as being in critical condition, Jamestown police said in a press release.

“The quick action of the officers who arrived at the scene allowed for a safe apprehension of the suspect,” Capt. Robert Samuelson of the Jamestown Police Department told The Post-Journal.

AN UNSPECIFIED THREAT

A threat reportedly forced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to close the recreation areas around Kinzua Dam in Warren, Pa. in August.

“In response to an ongoing law enforcement issue, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District has temporarily closed the dam parking lot, dam pedestrian access area, Visitor Information Center parking lot, Visitor Information Center building and downstream picnic area,” read a statement on the Kinzua Dam’s Facebook page.

“These measures are intended to be only temporary and we hope to be able to return to our normal posture in the near future,” officials said. “We apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause.”

Jeff Hawk, Pittsburgh District public affairs officer, noted incident was “not a dam safety issue,” not a problem tied to the stability and operation of the dam and is also not a funding issue.

“We will open up those areas once law enforcement inform(s us) the issue has been resolved,” Hawk said. “We can’t put a timeline on it.”

“We don’t want people to worry about something structurally wrong with the dam,” Hawk continued. “There’s nothing wrong (the Dam).”

The area reopened within a couple of days.

LARGE DRUG BUST

An August drug bust in which seven area residents were charged on Forest Avenue in Jamestown was also popular with readers.

The raid occurred around 6:30 p.m. Aug. 16 when members of the Jamestown Metro Drug Task Force, Jamestown Police Department S.W.A.T. Team and New York state troopers served a search warrant at 248 Forest Ave.

Police said the house was identified as a nuisance in the neighborhood through citizen complaints, JPD patrol activities and a Metro Drug Task Force investigation.

TRAIN ACCIDENT

On Aug. 24, readers learned of a Ripley woman who was killed when her sport utility vehicle was struck by a train Thursday afternoon in the village of Ripley.

Capt. Eric Balon of the New York State Police said 58-year-old Marilyn L. Triana of Ripley was killed after a CSX train on the westbound tracks struck her vehicle on Goodrich Street. The impact threw the SUV 150 yards before it rolled over and caught fire.

Balon said a train was also passing 50 yards south on Goodrich Street on a set of Norfolk Southern tracks. A motorist who stopped for a second train told investigator he saw Triana’s vehicle cross the CSX tracks before being struck by the other train.

REMEMBERING A KIND SOUL

Roughly a month ago, The Post-Journal’s Eric Tichy wrote a story about the life of Rosemary Billquist through the eyes of her husband, Jamie.

Billquist had been killed earlier in November after she was accidentally shot while walking their dogs.

Jamie Billquist told Tichy a story about Billquist’s love of animals.

“Many years ago, in typical Rosemary style, she was driving our car with our dogs inside to go take a blanket to some ducks that were down by the pond,” Jamie Billquist said. “After she got out, the car must have not been in park because it started to roll and went in the ditch.”

“Everyone was fine,” he continued.

“But that’s just how she was. I never met anyone in my life like her. She always put everyone else first.”

Jamie Billquist said he met Rosemary about 27 years ago at the Chautauqua Mall. They eventually bought a small house in Jamestown — even though they were “still just really young at the time,” Jamie Billquist said–before the pair moved to Rosemary’s childhood home in Sherman. Rosemary was a volunteer with Chautauqua Hospice and Palliative Care and worked at UPMC Chautauqua WCA hospital.

“It’s a shame,” Jamie Billquist said. “She loved life and was an angel. She volunteered with the pet program and would bring pets to those in hospice.”

Rosemary was also active outdoors, running in several marathons and taking part in triathlons. Jamie Billquist joked that Rosemary was the more athletic of the two.

“I was definitely there for support,” he said.

Joni Harvey, director of Health Information Management at WCA, said Rosemary was loved by everyone she met, especially patients around the Jamestown hospital. In fact, she said Rosemary once brought a bench from home to place near the hospital entrance after meeting a man who needed help walking.

Rosemary worked at WCA for 25 years.

“I’ve never met someone so kind, so helpful before,” Harvey said. “She was one in a million.”

EUCLID AVENUE DRUG BUST

Readers found an early April drug bust of interest as well. The April 6 incident in which a quantity of methamphetamine –and a 1-month-old child– were reportedly found inside a Euclid Avenue home resulted in charges against three people.

ANOTHER SHOOTING INCIDENT

It must have been the confluence of events, but readers were intrigued by The Post-Journal’s coverage of a Nov. 24 accidental shooting of a truck by a hunter.

An Ohio man was charged after accidentally firing a high-powered rifle at a brown pickup truck he mistook for a deer, the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office reported.

The hunting accident was the second in a week in the county and drew a sharp rebuke from Sheriff Joe Gerace, who called Friday’s incident in the town of North Harmony “absolutely irresponsible.”

Robert Merritt, of Springboro, Pa., called 911 to report that the pickup truck he was a passenger in had been struck by a bullet. Merritt and the driver, who was not identified, were on an access road heading toward state land on Wiltsie Road.

Miller told deputies and New York State Environmental Conservation police that he had mistaken the pickup truck for a deer when he fired a round from his 7mm highpowered scoped rifle. The bullet struck the vehicle’s front fender on the driver’s side just a few feet from the cab.

The round entered the engine compartment, disabling the truck, the Sheriff’s Office said in a press release.

Gerace said the man likely fired the round quickly after seeing movement in the woods. He said had the hunter lined up his shot and identified his target properly, the hunting accident would have been avoided.

“Firing this weapon at first blush with no target, it’s absolutely irresponsible,” Gerace told The Post- Journal. “It’s very concerning. We should be able to get through a hunting season without tragedy. This kind of thing just shouldn’t happen. We should be learning from past tragedies.”

“No game is worth injuries or taking a life,” he said.

DOWNTOWN FIRE

Many residents came downtown June 21 to watch as scores of firefighters worked to douse a fire at the former Arcade building on North Main Street in the city.

Smoke was seen coming from the historic, yet abandoned, building. A short time later, flames erupted not far from the railroad tracks the pass nearby.

According to Andrew Finson, battalion chief of the Jamestown Fire Department, fire crews responded to the 24 N. Main St. building shortly after 4 p.m., where they immediately observed heavy fire spewing out of the upper southeast corner of the structure.

Firefighters battled the blaze for nearly two hours, climbing onto the North Main Street bridge and preventing further fire damage into the northern part of the building.

The Arcade Building was built in 1890 and reportedly housed numerous businesses over the years, including a movie theater, insurance offices, dance studios and a shoe store, according to a 2011-founded campaign entitled “Save the Arcade: Arcade Building of Jamestown.”

The fire prompted a feasibility study of the building to determine if the Arcade building should be stabilized, renovated or torn down. As part of the study, costs were determined based on three scenarios: demolition, stabilization and renovation. The least expensive option is to stabilize the building. This includes making the building weather-tight and also protect it from further vandalism. This evaluation includes associated hazardous materials abatement as well as the replacement of the roof, doors and windows, with an estimated cost of $1,455,000.

The next option in regard to cost is demolition. This includes completely razing the building, abating all hazardous materials, rendering the site ready for future development. The estimated cost for demolition is $1,708,000.

The final option explored was a full restoration, including bringing the building up to current building and energy codes. For this scenario, a first floor retail space was considered and floors two through four, residential apartments. The estimated cost for the renovations is $16,420,000.

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