Roommate remembers UMass student Connor Cummings, victim of New York City fall, for love of photography

Last modified: Monday, January 04, 2016
AMHERST — The roommate of University of Massachusetts Amherst sophomore Connor Cummings, who died Wednesday while trying to climb a 52-story Four Seasons Hotel in New York City, remembered him as a “good kid” and fondly considered the 20-year-old from Rockaway, New Jersey, as a younger brother.

Ben Garner, a UMass junior from Conway, New Hampshire, said he and Cummings connected right away. Both members of the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity at UMass, Garner said he took Cummings under his wing because he was drawn to his personality.

“He was always going 110 percent,” Garner said. “I don’t think he ever had a bad day and he saw the beauty in everything.”

His ability to see beauty led him to one of his great passions — photography, Garner said. He loved taking photos and had his camera with him everywhere he went, he said.

It also appears his love of photography led to his death.

Cummings and a friend got access to one of the Four Seasons Hotel’s mid-level roofs and brought photo equipment up scaffolding attached to an air shaft to try to get photos of the New York skyline. Cummings lost his grip after it began to rain, and fell several stories.

New York City police said he was pronounced dead at the scene.

“We all take risks in life. Some of us get lucky and some don’t,” Garner said. “He went out doing something he loved.”

Garner recalled playing basketball and working out with Cummings, and said Cummings had a contagious smile. “He was a talkative person,” he said. “He wasn’t trying to be the center of attention, but if he walked into a room with 10 strangers he would walk out with 10 friends.”

Attempts to contact Cummings family were unsuccessful. A family member identifying himself as “uncle Joe,” the brother of Cummings mother Linda Cummings, asked a reporter at NJ.com for privacy Thursday at Cummings’ home and declined to talk at length.

“The whole family is here. We just had a tragedy,” he said, adding that Cummings had two brothers, Matthew and Cody. “No one is talking at this time.”

An aunt, Kate Gentile, told WABC Thursday that her family was trying to get more information from police.

“They say that he went up the elevator, and then went up a stairway, and then went out on a balcony, but the cops aren’t saying exactly what happened. And I know the medical examiner was up there,” Gentile told WABC. “I mean, he’s a young kid, he’s a good kid. They weren’t drinking or anything, they were taking a picture.”

Garner said members of his fraternity are still shocked and saddened by Cummings’ death and are trying to get a bus or van together to drive to a private funeral next week in New Jersey.

“We have some gifts we’re going to get together for his family,” Garner said. He added that they would likely try to organize a candlelight vigil at UMass to honor Cummings when classes resume later this month.

“His death devastated a lot of people,” Garner said. “He reached out beyond the Greek community.”

Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at deisen@gazettenet.com.