Category Archives: Hit-and-run accidents

Second Elmira Bicyclist Struck By Car This Week; Drivers, Share The Road and Pay Attention!

WETM photo.

I am sad to report that another Elmira bicyclist was struck by another careless motorist who simply wasn’t paying attention and struck a bicyclist while making a turn.

At about 7:30 a.m. Friday, a motorist struck a male bicyclist, identified as a man in his 50s, at Roe Avenue and Hoffman Street on Elmira’s Northside, about one city block from Arnot Ogden Medical Center. The driver was turning right from Hoffman Street into Roe Avenue when they struck the bicyclist. Fortunately, the bicyclist suffered non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

The driver was ticketed for Failure to Use Due Care For a Bicyclist, police said.

WETM photo.

Drivers are legally required to share the road with other vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians. It is NOT an excuse to say, “I didn’t see the bicyclist” or “I didn’t notice the pedestrian in the crosswalk.” As a driver, it’s your legal DUTY to be observant and see what is there to be seen.

So, please, when driving, be on the outlook for bicyclists, walkers, joggers, kids on skateboards. Paying attention saves lives ….

Charles G. Rogers

On Tuesday afternoon, bicyclist Charles G. Rogers, 68, of Elmira, was struck and killed in a crosswalk by a drunk hit-and-run driver on Grand Central Avenue in Elmira near the Clemens Center Parkway Extension and the north entrance to Eldridge Park.

The driver of the vehicle, who police said was drunk at the time of the crash, was stopped by Elmira Heights police after fleeing the scene. Sara Harnas, 40, of Elmira Heights, is facing two felony charges – first-degree Aggravated Unlicensed Operation and Leaving the Scene of a Fatal Accident. Her license has been suspended six times, police said, and she did not own the car she was driving at the time of the accident.

A Chemung County grand jury will decide whether Harnas faces additional charges, police said.

In Friday morning’s crash, news reports said the driver of the 2016 Ford sedan, who was not identified by police, was traveling south – in the same direction as the unidentified bicyclist – when the sedan hit the bicyclist.

The bicyclist was transported to Arnot Ogden Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

Police are asking witnesses to contact the Elmira Police Department at 607-737-5626 or the anonymous tip line at 607-271-HALT.

Thanks for reading,

Jim

James B. Reed
NY & PA Bike Crash Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

Tragic Crash In Elmira: The Villain And The Hero

The recent fatal bike crash in Elmira revealed the worst of humanity and the best of humanity.

The worst in a woman, in the middle of the day, who was extremely drunk. Who drove her car drunk.  Who ran down an adult bicyclist in a crosswalk.  Who left that poor man to die while she sped away while holding her crushed windshield.  Who tried to evade a brave hero who was chasing her as she tried to escape responsibility.

The best in a brave citizen, simply driving home from work, who saw a car with a crushed windshield and a man lying on the road next to a crumpled bicycle, who didn’t hesitate for a second, who made a quick U-turn and chased after the car. Who called 911 while following that car until police arrived.

We have nothing more to say about the horrible drunk, but we did want to take the time to applaud and publicly thank Jimmy Melton of Waverly. who was the brave good Samaritan. The world needs more people like Jimmy who are willing to get involved and help when unspeakable tragedies occur.

Our law firm sponsors a Hero of the Game at each home game of the Elmira Pioneers and it is our hope to honor Jimmy with a special tribute at a Pioneers game this summer.  In the meantime, to Jimmy, we simply say thanks for being a local hero.

On TV: Local lawyer, avid bicyclist speaks out after alleged hit and run kills one

Thanks for reading,

Jim

James B. Reed
NY & PA Bike Crash Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

UPDATE: Drunk Elmira Heights Woman Arrested After Elmira Bicyclist Killed In Hit-And-Run Crash

Charles G. Rogers, a 68-year-old bicyclist from Elmira, was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver with a suspended license Tuesday afternoon on Grand Central Avenue in Elmira, police said.

Charles G. Rogers

Mr. Rogers was crossing in the crosswalk on Grand Central near the Clemens Center Parkway Extension, close to the north entrance to Eldridge Park, at about 2 p.m. Tuesday when he was struck by a northbound 2006 Ford Fusion driven by Sara Harnas, 40, of East 11th Street in Elmira Heights, according to Elmira police.

He was transported by Erway Ambulance to Arnot Ogden Medical Center in Elmira, where he died a short time later, police said.

Ms. Harnas initially fled the scene and was only apprehended by the swift and brave action of a witness who followed her while calling 911. She was taken into custody by Elmira Heights police officers on East 14th Street in Elmira Heights near Lake Road.

Ms. Harnas allegedly was highly intoxicated. Alcohol and drug tests are pending. Her driver’s license has been suspended six times, police said.

Ms/ Sara Harnas

Ms. Harnas was charged with Leaving the Scene of a Fatal Accident and First-Degree Aggravated Unlicensed Operation, both felonies, and arraigned on Tuesday night in Elmira City Court and sent to the Chemung County Jail, police said.

The investigation continues and additional charges are expected, police said.

As a member of the Elmira bicycling community, my heart goes out to the family of Charles G. Rogers.

As a local bicycle advocate and Board member on the NY Bicycling Coalition, I will be working with our biking community to ensure that this reckless drunk driver is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We thank the wonderful citizen who followed the hit-and-run driver until the Elmira Heights police pulled Ms. Harnas over. Of course, more details will emerge as the Elmira Police Department completes its investigation, but it is our hope that this drunk driver will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

In the meantime, again, our condolences to Mr. Rogers’ family and friends.

Thanks for reading,

Jim

James B. Reed
NY & PA Bike Crash Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

 

 

It’s Already Been a Deadly Year for NYC Bicyclists…..And It’s Only March

David Schlichting (Facebook)

Sad to say but it appears to be  open season on bicyclists in New York City.  So far this year, in less than three months, 7 cyclist fatalities.  In the last week alone, two very experienced bicyclists were struck and killed.

NYC police said a total of 10 bicyclists were killed in the city’s boroughs in all of 2018, so 2019 is looking like a much more deadly year for cyclists. Some bicycle advocates are estimating that there could be 30 or more deaths this year on NYC streets. And there are real steps the city — and all cities — can take to protect bicyclists from some of the hazards.

On March 14, 53-year-old Robert Spencer was killed just blocks from his home in Long Island City. Police did not identify the 51-year-old female driver who struck him but said the investigation continues.

On March 17, 66-year-old David Schlichting was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver on Long Island.

Both were described as experienced and careful cyclists.

Bicycle advocates in New York City called for the city to move quickly to install bike-centric infrastructure across the five boroughs.

> Police and neighbors said Spencer was struck in an uncompleted bike lane. Residents living near the crash scene recently requested a two-way protected bike lane near the intersection where he was killed.

“Another awful tragedy. Another life lost. Another family shattered,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer on Twitter. “We cannot normalize traffic violence and deaths. They cannot be a foregone conclusion. Cyclists deserve safety on our city’s roads like everyone else.”

“DOT will look into potential safety enhancements, as we do following any fatality,” a city Department of Transportation spokeswoman told the news media. The DOT also said it would implement areawide traffic-calming measures around the crash scene and will re-examine existing construction projects to ensure the paths are safe.

Spencer’s family and friends held a weekend vigil and placed a ghost bike at the crash scene.

> Schlichting was struck by a minivan driver who fled the scene and remains at large, police said.

Friends told the news media that Schlichting had been involved in the cyclist community for decades, beginning with his volunteer work with the American Youth Hostels nonprofit, which for much of the 1960s and 1970s organized bike trips in the city. In the 1970s, the group became the Five Borough Bicycle Club and Schlichting helped launch the Five Boro Bicycle Tour, an annual 40-mile ride that remains the country’s largest gathering of cyclists.

He also helped lead multiple safety and educational campaigns for fellow cyclists.

“David was happy to make substantial volunteer commitments, but not concerned about getting credit for work that he did,” said Steve Vaccaro, a friend and safe streets advocate. “He was really ubiquitous in New York City cycling for decades.”

Bike New York, a nonprofit organization that teaches safe cycling, said in a statement: “Dave was a longtime and much-loved part of our extended Bike New York Family. We’re outraged a driver could recklessly run him down and be so cowardly as to flee afterwards. We urge Nassau County authorities to stay on the case and ensure the driver is caught.”

Bike New York President & CEO Ken Podziba called Schlichting “one of the most disciplined bike riders we know” in a statement, adding that his death illustrates that “no matter how experienced and careful a bike rider is, cyclists in the New York area will continue to die and be hurt until governments at all levels, take street and road safety seriously enough to build networks of protected bike lanes, design streets to operate at safe speeds, and get problem drivers out from behind the wheel.”

Please ride safely out there…….

Jim

James B. Reed
NY & PA Bike Crash Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

 

NY Bike Accident Lawyer Jim Reed Elected President Of NY Bicycling Coalition

Jim Reed of the Ziff Law Firm

Attorney Jim Reed, managing partner of the Ziff Law Firm, was recently elected president of the board of the New York Bicycling Coalition (NYBC), a group that advocates for a safer New York state for bicyclists.

Jim is passionate about bicycling and will help NYBC grow and reach more riders across the state. He will be a game-changer for NYBC!

“The New York Bicycling Coalition is dedicated to making bicycling safer for all New Yorkers,” said Jim, who has handled hundreds of bicycle accident cases in his 27 years as a lawyer. “As a personal injury lawyer representing cyclists from all over the state, I know all too well the dangers faced by cyclists. It is my personal goal to see fewer fatalities and injuries, and I hope to achieve that goal while working hard on behalf of NYBC.”

Jim Reed use this photoJim, who has been on the NYBC board for four years, has been an avid cyclist since he was a teenager. He participates in all kind of cycling, including road racing, mountain biking, bike trips and recreational riding.

The New York Bicycling Coalition advocates in Albany and across the state for better transportation policies, more funding, and educating about bicycle safety, the benefits of riding, and treating riders with respect.

NYBC welcomes Reed’s energy and passion for safety.

“Jim is the right person to lead NYBC as we begin our second quarter-century as the only statewide organization working on the full spectrum of bike and pedestrian issues,” said NYBC Executive Director Paul Winkeller. “His successful work as a bike lawyer has encompassed advocacy, education and enforcement – all the elements that need to be aligned in order to ensure a safe and shared road and trail system serving every New Yorker.”

NYBC logo“Jim’s immense passion for cycling and his deep understanding of the transformative value of healthy transportation and recreation will serve NYBC well as we continue to grow our impact throughout the state,” said Justin Smith, NYBC communications director. “Jim’s proven leadership in his community and at his practice combined with his extensive legal experience representing people who bike, as well as his desire to enable everyone to pedal to better, fuller lives, will ensure that NYBC’s governance remains strong as we advance our efforts helping communities in New York state become safer and more enjoyable places to ride a bicycle.”

If you are interested in supporting the important mission of NYBC you can join here:  www.nybc.net/join.

Thanks for reading!

Attorney Adam Gee
[email protected]

 

 

 

Judge Was Right To Send Drunk Driver To Prison For Accident That Killed Steuben County Bicyclist, Says NY and PA Bicycle Law Lawyer

cnpca8039-vi

A Wayland man is going to state prison for two to six years for striking and killing a bicyclist while he was driving drunk. I heartily applaud the prison sentence because it’s all too often that drivers who kill cyclists get off with little more than a slap on the wrist.

Of course even this sentence is insufficient to properly compensate this poor cyclist’s family for the pain they have suffered.

According to news reports here and here: Kyle A. O’Neal, 26, was sentenced Tuesday in Steuben County Court in Bath in the death of James Mitchell, 18, of Wayland, in May 2013.

Police said O’Neal was drunk when he struck Mitchell, who was riding his bicycle along County Route 36 in the Town of Cohocton.

The slain teen’s father, Joseph Mitchell, said it was important to think of his son as more than just a victim, according to The Leader newspaper in Corning.

“James was not just a kid on a bicycle,” he told the court. “He was my best friend and my youngest son.”

Joseph Mitchell made this remarkable statement about O’Neal: “Someday I’ll forgive him.”

Mitchell was less than a half-mile from home when he was killed around 8:30 p.m. on May 9, 2013, police said.

O’Neal, who police said left the scene, was arrested later that day.

He was initially charged with driving while intoxicated, then second-degree vehicular manslaughter.

In June, he entered a guilty plea on the vehicular manslaughter charge after an agreement with prosecutors.

Judge Marianne Furfure.

Judge Marianne Furfure.

Addressing Mitchell’s family, according to The Leader, O’Neal said: “I will never forgive myself for that night. I realize there is nothing I can do or say that will diminish the pain that I’ve caused.”

Judge Marianne Furfure wants O’Neal placed in the state’s shock incarceration program.

“Your decision to drink and to drive not only violated the law, but also caused the death of an innocent bicyclist,” Furfure told O’Neal in court.

I know some people are critical of Judge Furfure’s decision to recommend shock incarceration over traditional prison but I have appeared in front of Judge Furfure many times and I have always found her to be one of the most intelligent, thoughtful and hard-working judges I have ever met so I am confident that she has a sound well-reasoned basis for recommending shock incarceration.  Many people don’t realize that a judge, in determining an appropriate criminal sentence, has a great deal of information at their disposal in making the tough decision of exactly what sentence they should impose in a given case.  Therefore, for those of us who are not privy to all the information provided to the judge, it is difficult to know all the factors that made a judge choose one sentence over another.  With that in mind, I am sure Judge Furfure thought long and hard before recommending shock incarceration and I am sure she had many good reasons for doing so.

Our thoughts and prayers go to the family of this innocent cyclist James Mitchell.

Thanks for reading,

Jim

James B. Reed
NY & PA Bike Accident Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

 

 

 

 

Hit-And-Run Driver Gets Outrageous Four-Month Jail Sentence, Says NY and PA Bicycle Accident Lawyer

A sentence handed down Thursday in a hit-and-run accident that killed a bicyclist is outrageous.

I was shocked and outraged this morning when I read in the newspaper that a Watkins Glen woman – who struck a bicyclist who later died of his injuries – was sentenced to just four months in jail.

Four months. In a fatal hit-and-run accident!

The Elmira Star-Gazette and The Leader in Corning reported that Melissa E. Smith, 37, was driving south on state Route 414 in the Town of Dix on Oct. 16, 2011, when she struck 35-year-old Michael Delzell of Beaver Dams, who was riding a bicycle north, according to the Schuyler County Sheriff’s Department.

Deputies said Smith got out of her car and saw Delzell’s condition but made no attempt to help him or notify authorities when she went to work at a nearby hospital, according to District Attorney Joseph Fazzary.

Later on Oct. 16, after lying to deputies, Smith admitted she struck Delzell, Fazzary said.

Delzell later died at a Rochester hospital.

Smith pleaded guilty on March 1 to Leaving the Scene of a Personal Injury Accident Which Resulted In Death, a Class D Felony.

Fazzary recommended Smith be sentenced to one to three years in a state prison, but Schuyler County Judge Dennis Morris on Thursday chose the lighter jail sentence and three years of conditional discharge!

The sentence in this case is absolutely obscene. It is unbelievable that this woman, someone who works at a hospital, could get out, NOT render any aid, and then go to work at a hospital without doing anything more to alert anyone to this injured cyclist, and THEN lie to the police

And now she gets a slap on the wrist. This is just shocking.

Unfortunately, shockingly light sentences like this can occur if substantial family/public pressure is not placed on the DA’s office and judge BEFORE a sentence is imposed.  While there are definitely limits to the sentences that can be imposed for certain offenses, generally there is a fairly wide range of discretion available to the judge.

Sadly, if a victim or their family does not forcefully and publicly advocate for a maximum sentence, you often see results like this.

I don’t know the family of this victim and I don’t know whether they lobbied for a maximum sentence, but given the fact that so little publicity was generated about this case while it was pending leads me to assume that there wasn’t much forceful advocacy on their behalf.

For that matter, I don’t know whether they have hired a lawyer to pursue a civil claim (I would hope so), but if I was handling this claim, I sure would have been raising hell before that sentencing.  Of course, as a civil lawyer, I don’t have any official role in the criminal proceedings but I know as a practical matter that there is MUCH that can be done to unofficially influence the process.

The bottom line is:  THE SQUEAKY WHEEL GETS THE GREASE.

And my corollary: AND THE SILENT WHEEL GETS THE SHAFT.

Please be safe out there!

Thanks for reading.

Thanks, Jim.

_________________________________

James B. Reed

NY & PA Bicycle Accident Attorney

Ziff Law Firm, LLP

Mailto: [email protected]

Office: (607)733-8866

Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)

Web: www.zifflaw.com