On Monday (5/28) at about 5:03 p.m., deputies responded to 5202 Long Point Road in Rushville on Canandaigua Lake for a possible drowning. A male victim went underwater for approximately ten minutes before he was found. Another boater was passing by and heard the screaming, so the other boater jumped in, located the victim, Thomas A. Palmer, age 49 of Centerview Trail, Macedon, and brought the him to the surface.
Medics attempted CPR and Palmer was transported to F.F. Thompson Hospital where he was determined to be deceased. The incident has been listed as an accidental drowning. Crystal Beach first responders, Canandaigua Ambulance, and Middlesex Ambulance responded to the scene.
At a quickly assembled press confereence at Gananda High School on Tuesday, coaches and administrators and students spoke of their feelings about Palmer, the school’s JV Lacrosse Coach for the last two years.
Although the season is just getting underway, many of the team members, hearing the shocking news, went to be with the Palmer family on Monday night. Palmer and his wife Melissa have two sons, Ian and Riley, both of whom were on Gananda’s Lacrosse team. Ian will graduate in June.
“Gananda is a special community. The school is the community, and sports is how we connect,” said Athletic Director John Tichacek. He said that the family had been in the Gananda development for about 13 years and were all very involved in sports from the start.
“Tom watched both his boys play on the Lacrosse team and was very proud of them both, and proud to watch them from the sidelines,” said Marty LaFica, Past President of the Gananda Youth Football program and good friend of the Palmer family. “His reach was so much more than just being a coach. What he was doing was building strong character in our youth, and they were learning,” said an emotional LaFica, whose son Anthony also spoke about his respect and deep feelings for Palmer. Anthony told reporters that he had been coached by Palmer for 5 years from Youth Football until his High School participation. Basketball was also part of his interaction with the coach. “I was shooting a free throw shot the other day and I didn’t jump for it…and remembered that Coach Palmer had always taught me to jump for a free throw,” said Anthony. He was always my coach. He will definitely come to my mind often.”
“He kept pushing us. He knew what he was doing. He wanted us to be the best we could be,” said Anthony.
Sophomore Chase Reeves was in his first year of Lacrosse with Coach Palmer. “I had him as a coach for football and wanted him to be my coach for Lacrosse also. I joined because of him,” Chase admitted.
Another sophomore, Nick Smith, who is just starting his Lacrosse career, noted that he and the team were “totally in shock” about his death. “He is the one who always got me to play. I knew I wanted to play lacrosse because he was the coach.”
Tom had been part of the Youth Football, Youth Lacrosse, scorekeeper for Gananda Basketball, and many other youth athletic volunteer positions.
“Lots of parents volunteer as coaches,” said John Walier, President of the Youth Football program, “but Tom also taught the players how to win with integrity and character, and much more, on and off the field. “My son played for Tom for 3 years. There is a huge hole.”
The school offered counseling on Tuesday for students, according to High School principal Kelly VanLaeken. The students also found teachers they could talk to about the tragedy.