Austerlitz man charged in house fire

AUSTERLITZ—A probe by Sheriff’s Office investigators has determined that a house fire at 72 Cool Timber Road, Friday, August 7 was not an accident and have made an arrest in the case.

Columbia County 911 dispatched seven volunteer fire companies, the Greenport Rescue Squad and sheriff’s deputies to an active structure fire at the John and Nona Lange home.

Deputies interviewed the homeowners, who indicated that they, along with their son, were the only ones home at the time the blaze broke out. They also told deputies that their son fled the area on foot.

Investigators located the son, Galen Lange, 28, a short distance from the residence on the Taconic Parkway and interviewed him. He allegedly “made statements about the fire,” according to a press release from Sheriff David Bartlett. No one was hurt as a result of the fire.

Investigator Anthony Brahm and Deputy Thomas Merante arrested Galen Lange on a charge of fourth degree arson, a class E felony, August 11 at 11:17 a.m.

He was arraigned before Justice David Cassuto in Austerlitz Court and was sent to the Columbia County Jail in lieu of $10,000 bail, scheduled to reappear August 12.

The fire erupted August 7 at 1:34 p.m.

Austerlitz firefighters with mutual aid from Niverville, Ghent, Philmont, Hillsdale, Mellenville and Claverack were called to the scene.

The home is about two miles up a dirt road off of County Route 21C and firefighters were hampered by the lack of water and access to the property, according to 911.

Fire Coordinator John Howe, Deputy Fire Coordinators William Hunt, George Keeler, Joseph Loeffler and Peter Harvey were on the scene along with the County Cause and Origin Team. New York State Electric and Gas was called to cut power to the home.

Firefighters cleared the scene at 11:44 p.m. A rekindle of the fire called Austerlitz firefighters back August 8 at 3:52 a.m. until 5:31 a.m.

The Austerlitz Fire Department, the Columbia County Fire Coordinator, the Columbia County Cause and Origin Team, the State Office of Fire Prevention and Control and the Columbia County District Attorney assisted the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office with this investigation.


A Westchester County man died the morning of Sunday, August 9 at Albany Medical Center after nearly drowning in Oakdale Lake, the evening of Thursday, August 6.

Columbia County 911 called Hudson Police for a report that there was a man “under the water” near Oakdale Beach, off North Sixth Street at 7:29 p.m.

The Hudson Fire Department’s Water Operations Team arrived on scene at 7:31 p.m. just two minutes later. Greenport Rescue Squad members and on-duty Hudson Police Officer Mishanda Franklin-Cox also entered the water and were soon joined in the search by the divers.

The dive team pulled Manuel F. Chiqui, 51, of Peekskill from the lake at 7:54 p.m.—25 minutes after the 911 call. The squad administered First Aid/CPR at scene. Mr. Chiqui was taken to Columbia Memorial Hospital for treatment and was transferred to Albany Medical Center at 3:40 a.m. where he remained in stable condition. In confirming Mr. Chiqui’s death, Hudson Police Lieutenant James Delaney said the man never regained consciousness.

A police investigation revealed that Mr. Chiqui was picnicking with four family members at the park prior to the incident. At one point a soccer ball was kicked into the lake. Mr. Chiqui entered the water, tethered to a rope that other family members were holding on shore.

Mr. Chiqui was about 15 yards out, when the family members lost their grip on the rope and Mr. Chiqui went under.

A Good Samaritan, Kejana Jackson, 25, of Hudson placed the original 911 call when he witnessed the incident while fishing. Mr. Jackson immediately entered the water and tried to grasp the rope but his efforts were hampered by the murkiness of the water.

Police said no family members entered the lake. “We are unsure if they simply panicked or did not know how to swim,” police said in a press release.

Hudson Police Chief L. Edward Moore called the efforts of the neighborhood “remarkable” and “extraordinary.”

“Whether it be the unbelievable response time of the Hudson Fire Department and their divers, the professionalism of Greenport Rescue, the effort of our Officer Mishanda Franklin-Cox or the unselfishness of Kejana Jackson, what we see here is a community of good people coming together to rescue someone in need. No one hesitated.”


Troopers from the New Lebanon barracks responded to Howes Road about a mile in from Albany Turnpike, for a Columbia County 911 dispatch reporting that a man had fallen from a bucket truck and sustained a head injury, July 31 at 11:43 a.m.

A preliminary investigation revealed that Robert A. Fournier, 50, of Chatham had been contracted by the Town of Chatham to remove trees and limbs from the shoulders of Howe Road. While elevated about 30 feet high in the bucket, the hydraulic system supporting the boom appeared to have failed, causing the bucket to descend rapidly. Mr. Fournier, who was cutting branches at the time, subsequently fell from the bucket and struck the ground.

He was later pronounced dead. The Troop K Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit responded to the scene and inspected the vehicle.

State Police were assisted by the Columbia County Coroner’s Office, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Chatham Rescue Squad and Tri-Village firefighters who responded to the scene.

Units were clear from the scene at 1:20 p.m.


State Police from the Livingston barracks investigated a one-car fatal motor vehicle collision that occurred on the Taconic State Parkway just north of Ferris Road, August 4 at 4:30 p.m.

An investigation indicated that George E. Wendover, Jr., 53, of Milan was traveling north on the Taconic State Parkway in a 2003 Dodge Durango at a high rate of speed.

He reportedly lost control of his vehicle and went off the east shoulder of the road. The vehicle traveled up an earth embankment and collided with a tree.

Mr. Wendover was pronounced deceased at the scene by the Dutchess County Medical Examiner’s Office. Police are unsure if alcohol and or drugs contributed to the crash cause at this time. Mr. Wendover was not wearing his seatbelt at the time of the crash.

State Police were assisted by the Milan Fire Department and Rescue Squad and the Dutchess County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Mr. Wendover was the only occupant in the vehicle at the time of the crash.


John A. Southard, Jr., 25, of Clermont was charged with first degree reckless endangerment, a class D felony, and fourth degree criminal possession of a weapon, a class A misdemeanor, by the State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation from the Livingston barracks, July 27 at 8:57 p.m.

Troopers responded to the area of County Route 8 and State Route 9 for a report of shots heard. The caller reported that he heard a gunshot immediately followed by the sound of glass breaking in his home.

Subsequent investigation revealed that Mr. Southard had allegedly discharged a round from a 12-gauge shotgun and inadvertently stuck the victim’s home. No injuries were reported to police during this investigation. A criminal history revealed that Mr. Southard is not permitted to possess firearms due to a previous unrelated felony conviction. He was arraigned in Livingston Court and sent to the Columbia County Jail without bail.


Dylan Cowin, 18, of Hudson was charged with sexual misconduct, a class a misdemeanor, by the State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation from the Livingston barracks, July 31.

Following an investigation conducted by the State Police and the Columbia County Child Advocacy Center, it was determined that Mr. Cowin allegedly had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a 13-year-old child in June.

Mr. Cowin was arraigned in Claverack Court and released on his own recognizance. He was scheduled to return to Claverack Court August 4. State Police were assisted by the Columbia County Child Protective Services, the Columbia County Child Advocacy Center and the Columbia County District Attorney’s Office.

To contact Diane Valden


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