Volunteers Wrap Up Build At Cleveland Park, Victim’s Dad Speaks

Four years after a tragedy took down one Upstate park, volunteers have put new life back into it.

A castle-like playground now stands where the old children’s train tracks at Cleveland Park used to be.

For years it had been unused space, torn down in the face of a terrible accident. The train derailed in 2011, killing 6-year-old Benji Easler and injuring several others.

“I saw all of the equipment gone. Everything missing. Desolate,” said Dwight Easler, Benji’s father. “What this park looked like, it what my life felt like.”

Dwight Easler, Benji’s dad, returned to the park Sunday to thank hundreds of volunteers who spent the week building the new playground.

He recalled the tragic day, “I was begging God to spare his life while they did CPR on him.”

He also told them that with their help and his faith, his family has been able to move forward.

Organizers say over 2,000 volunteers stepped up to return Cleveland park to its former glory. Now the project is 95 percent complete.

“A way of getting everybody to come together to do something positive in memory of him,” said Joy Downing.

“In any tragedy, the more you have people try to help out and the more that you have people trying to bring you out, I really think it helps,” said James Seacord.

Children were already able to come by and get a glimpse of the fun ahead.

“They just couldn’t wait to come down to get on the play center when it was finished,” said Seacord about his own children.

Organizers say they still need to add grass a wheelchair ramp and a memorial for all those impacted by the derailment. They hope to reopen the park within the next month.

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