- Last Updated: 8:05 AM, June 10, 2012
- Posted: 12:33 AM, June 10, 2012
An evening walk atop the Palisades cliffs became an unthinkable tragedy when a baby-face teen lost his footing and fell about 250 feet to the shoreline.
John Graniello, 16, was found dead by rescuers after a risky, multi-agency effort to save the boy Friday night at about 10 p.m.
Police said the Fort Lee HS student was walking with pal Mikki Oates, a teen from Edgewater, when he climbed over a 4-foot chain-link fence along the craggy ridge just north of the George Washington Bridge.
The remote area is between lookout points along a walking trail and offers stunning views of the Manhattan skyline.
He suddenly fell backward and plummeted to the bottom of the rock face, and his horrified friend dialed 911.
It took hours for rescuers from Fort Lee, East Bergen and the NYPD to find and remove his body in the remote woods along the Hudson River, authorities said.
His mother, Lazara Capote, 52, rushed to the scene.
“When I was taken to the location where he fell, I just wanted to breathe the same last air he did,” Capote cried.
“I was waiting in the ambulance for two hours, and no one would tell me if my son was dead or alive. I just wanted to hold him, to touch him. They couldn’t find his body for two hours. I passed out three times last night.”
The heartbroken mother said John was born through in vitro fertilization.
“He was our miracle,” she said.
His dad, Michael Graniello, who recently took his son to an Audi dealership to look for a car, said: “He was a good boy, bright. Never had a bad thing to say about anybody.
“Everybody loved him. He was so happy. He was a stand-up gentleman and the kindest kid.”
The teen was his usual happy-go-lucky self in the hours before his shocking death.
He was about having aced his English final and looking forward to summer vacation.
“It was pretty hard,” he told classmate Artemis Siskos, 17, of the test, “but I think I did pretty well.”
She said the area where Graniello fell is hazardous — especially in the dark.
“I’ve been there, but I’ve never been there with him,” Siskos said. “I’ve been there with my dad, because my dad likes to go hiking. It’s dangerous there.
“It’s scary in that area, especially at nighttime.”
In school, John’s smiling face was a fixture on a school TV newscast that once hosted Gov. Chris Christie.
“The TV production crew won’t be the same without him,” said Siskos, the weather girl.
At his home, more than 20 friends prayed around his bed.
Stella Tragellis, 15, whose fireman brother responded to the accident, wept.
“Just last Friday, we went to Starbucks together. Then we came to his house. That’s the last time I saw him,” she said.
His mother, whom John took care of because she suffers from lupus and fibromyalgia, watched the memorial in her son’s bedroom.
“I still can’t believe it,” she said. “I feel like he’s going to walk through that door any second and be, like, ‘You’ve got the wrong guy, Mom. I’m still here. I’m alive.’ ”