Sunday, October 5, 2014

Another Disturbing DUI

Car vs tree Henry Street (note engine block ripped away from frame)

Last night first responders rushed to the north end of town around 1:30 AM for reports of a high speed crash involving a car, tree, and most likely alcohol (the person calling for help from the scene sounded drunk).

2 AFD ambulances on scene

Initial reports from the scene indicated one person trapped and unconscious in the back seat.  But by the time the AFD Engines arrived all occupants (at least four "college aged youth") were out of the demolished vehicle.

Amherst police charged the 22-year-old driver with driving under the influence of alcohol but he's still in the hospital, so I probably will not see him tomorrow in Eastern Hampshire District Court.

The accident tied up two ambulances needed to transport two victims to Baystate Critical Care unit in Springfield.  Since Bay State is 25 miles or so from Amherst, versus 7 for Cooley Dickinson Hospital, those ambulances are out of service for two or three times longer.

Two engines responded to help clean up potentially hazardous fluids and three police cars to seal off the area and interview the occupants.  And even though it was 2:00 AM there were still service calls that had to be put on hold due to the strain on resources this one potentially deadly accident caused.

The Shadow knows ...

 The car was traveling north and crossed over the southbound lane into a tree

Last month another spectacular accident in the dead of night involving high speed and alcohol occurred on the opposite side of town, scenic South East Street.

Bumper was ripped off and thrown about 20 yards

All photos by Larry Kelley.  All rights reserved.


Rene said...

Just think how often this might have happened had the "Retreat" been built. If just 1% of the 641 proposed residents committed DUI per year, then that would be 6 times a year.

Those of us who opposed the Retreat had just this scenario in mind among other things.

Larry Kelley said...

People who are gonna drive drunk are gonna drive drunk.

If they are not living in The Retreat in North Amherst, then they are gonna live in Southpoint in South Amherst.

Anonymous said...

"If they are not living in The Retreat in North Amherst, then they are gonna live in Southpoint in South Amherst."
quite the statement from a so-called you have proof that people who will drive drunk will live at south point.

Dr. Ed said...

Larry, I know you have the same attitude towards Alcohol that I do towards UMass -- and likely for many of the same reasons -- but this is a case where you really ought to take all the facts into account.

Granted, driving drunk is both criminal and stupid, but I can think of (heck, have personally seen albeit after-the-crash) no fewer than four other possible causes for that crash, five if the road was wet (i.e. the water wasn't from AFD).

This could have happened with a sober driver! Potential causes:

1: Driver distraction. Three other young people in the car -- that's distracting to anyone and throw in both an inexperienced driver and the immortality of youth -- not to mention anticipation of where they are going -- you have an out-of-control vehicle.

2: Driving too fast for conditions. That can include speeding but not always. A curvy road at night, maybe not clean headlights/windshield, maybe mist/fog/rain -- throw in that and the distraction of peers -- deadly.

3: Traumatic mechanical failure. Tie rod comes loose, C/V joint comes apart or a couple other things and you have one front wheel pointing anywhere it wants to go/ If you maintain your own vehicle (as I do), if you know how to tell that one of these things is on the verge of traumatic failure, or if you have a good mechanic who actually checks such things, that's one thing.

But a shiny new-looking car -- no one really looks too hard at anything before putting a sticker on it -- there are times when I think that the emissions test is the ONLY thing they care about anyway -- apeedbumps (and potholes) beat the daylights out of your front end components.

I saw a woman put a car into the Wysocki Field (off N. Pleasant) one day -- I forget what it was she lost bout you could hear it scraping -- instead of going straight ahead, she went to the left because her right (passenger side) tire had broken loose from the steering and was pointed that way.

4: Driver incompetence and or something happening and the driver freezing in panic. The latter is the classic driver hitting gas rather than brake, and I've seen it about 4 times, once where the mailman had the presence of mind to reach in and shut off the ignition as she'd fetched up on the side of Lincoln Bld 5 and was there at full throttle with the tires spinning -- there'd have quickly been a fire if he hadn't done this.

Same thing can happen when a young driver gets overwhelmed.

5: Wet leaves. Particularly nasty with front wheel drive cars which I believe that was. Enough said?

My point: the driver may have been drunk and shouldn't have been. But as to what caused that accident, I suspect that there was a lot of other stuff that at least helped greatly.

What bothers me is that once alcohol is found to be involved, everything else is ignored -- even though the everything else kills lots of sober folk and may well have been the actual cause of this accident as well.

I again say that if a White Pine snaps off in the wind and a couple tons of tree falls from the sky and impales the driver, the fact he may have been drunk did not cause that accident! To a lesser extent, I suggest we really need to ask about other contributing causes in accidents that a sober driver may (or may not) have been able to avoid...

Anonymous said...

Do you know if ETOH calls were up, down or about the same this weekend? Who is the party that usually calls for help with an ETOH person: a friend? a cop? a witness?

Larry Kelley said...

I will get the official run report tomorrow afternoon.

But my sense is there were enough ETOH calls between those bewitching hours 10 PM to 3 AM to cause concern.

At one point after 2:00 AM Northampton FD started to respond via mutual aid (meaning we had 5 tied up) but then A4 cleared at the Cooley Dickinson and responded "directly to the scene," which they do not like to do.

Normally they report "back to quarters" (either Central or North Station) to restock the ambulance.

In this case the 911 call came from one of the occupants of the destroyed vehicle.

Anonymous said...

What an awful accident. I sure hope the injuries are not life threatening. I remember when we had SAP(Speed and Alcohol Patrol). Are there any grants like that now so we can put on some public safety personnel?

Larry Kelley said...

No, but the state does dole out some money for extra shifts to target drunk drivers.

Not nearly enough $ however.

Dr. Ed said...

I'm sorry but I side with Alan Snow on the relocated driveway issue -- I still say that they want TWO driveways, a circular drive, and if you draw the existing and proposed out relative to the house, you will see that too.

It isn't like they proposed planting trees in the middle of the old driveway....

Anonymous said...

How many accidents will it take before the town government finally takes steps to slow traffic all along South East Street? Is the town manager waiting for a death? What does it take for the heads of town government to act to protect residents? Should a developer make the request?

Anonymous said...

Regarding Rathbun/Benfey's continuous complaining...

Benfey/Rathbun bought their house in 2009, having lived in Amherst for for many years before that. You can read about it in his book.

They weren't aware of the traffic problems before they bought the house?

I am always amazed by people who buy houses at the end of runways, then complain about the jet noise.

Dr. Ed said...

I really doubt that ETOH was the only cause of this accident.

First, I'm guessing that vehicle was traveling at least TWICE the posted speed (70 in a 35) -- it was reported as a "high speed crash" which kinda implies that speed was a factor.

Second, four young people in a vehicle is often an accident waiting to happen. Friends can distract the driver to the point where driver performance is degraded as much as if the driver were drunk. (If the driver already is drunk, then performance is degraded yet further.)

Third, an across-the-road, into-the-woods accident can be caused by the catastrophic failure of steering components. A tie rod end coming loose, a ball joint popping out, a C/V joint coming apart -- these things happen. Yes, there are warnings long before they do -- characteristic noises and poor handling but how many people know this?

Fourth, wet leaves. These are particularly treacherous in a front drive car because of engine braking. When you take your foot off the gas, the drive wheels (if they have traction) are braking but the other axle *isn't*.

In a rear-drive car, this isn't a problem because the car essentially drags the rear tires along with it. But a front-drive car is going to want to spin and if the road is wet and/or slippery, usually will. An experienced (sober) drive can get himself out of this, if he isn't driving way too fast for conditions in the first place.

Fifth, what was his BAC? He was injured badly enough to go to Bay State, hence no FSTs. For APD to have probable cause to arrest, he had to be REALLY drunk and not just at the .08 threshold.

My point is that while drunk drivers cause accidents, they rarely are the ONLY cause of the accident -- AND WE NEED TO REMEMBER THE OTHER STUFF TOO!

Furthermore, it is not the drivers that are slightly over the limit that are causing these accidents. Instead, it's drivers who are really drunk -- above .15, usually above .2 -- twice or thrice the limit.

Anonymous said...

"Just think how often this might have happened had the "Retreat" been built. Those of us who opposed the Retreat had just this scenario in mind among other things."

How often is that Rene? Wow talk about close minded ignorance. It's the equivalent of saying that if blacks move into the neighborhood, crime will increase or that all Muslims must be terrorists. I feel very sorry for you Rene.

To say that the Retreat would have caused more DUIs "just like this" is simply stupid. That stretch of road is dangerous for anyone drunk or not. About the only thing you could say with certainty is that the rate of drunk driving is highest among 21 to 25 year olds (23.4 percent). But to say you opposed a building project because 'it' would have caused more DUIs "just like this" in North Amherst is simply a sign of how ignorant and close minded you are.

Dr. Ed said...

How many accidents will it take before the town government finally takes steps to slow traffic all along South East Street?

No, the question is how many MORE accidents will there be if the town is stupid enough to do this.

That is a rural road that should be posted at 45 MPH and improved to make that safe. The more you lower the speed from there the more you have disrespect for the speed limit in general.

Anonymous said...

The town of Amherst can't simply declare a sped limit for a road and put up a sign.

Anonymous said...

Speaking as someone who lives along that hill, before we bought our house, we did not know that cars frequently slide of that hill and land in yards and ditches in snow, ice, rainy or normal conditions.We did not know that people speed at 50-60+mph along South East Street. Nor did we know that cars pass each other at the top of the hill. We did not know how frequent car accidents are, or that neighbors keep their kids out of their front yards and are afraid to get their mail. WE spent an hour or two at the house before we bought it. Our realtor did not tell us any of this and we did not somehow know this.

But all of this is true. And it is dangerous. And bicyclists have been hit. And cars have hit each other. And it will happen again and again.

So what is stopping the town manager and head of DPW and the Select Board from making this street safer? This is a solvable problem.

And 9:20, why don't you care about any of this? Are we supposed to throw up our hands and say it's god's will?

Janet McGowan

Anonymous said...

"So what is stopping the town manager ... This is a solvable problem."

Using 'town manager' and 'solvable' in the same sentence does not computer. Look at this town's history of solving problems. They can't even build an efficient parking lot and you expect them to fix a traffic issue.

Anonymous said...

Hi Janet

I care very much and was shocked by what happened at your house.

We're all getting tired of Rathbun/Benfey telling us that if there is an accident near their driveway, "then the blood is on the town's hands".

If traffic such a concern, they shouldn't have moved to that house.
Red Gate is a much safer street.

Anonymous said...

Geeze people..You think you can toss up a speed sign and the problem is solved? You think some more "speed humps" would suffice? How about tearing up the concrete/pavement and making it a dirt path? That will slow em down.

Truth is that there is no viable solution. Flatten the hill = raceway. Add guardrails = pinball until they crash. Low speed limit = challenge accepted. Point v counterpoint.

Rene said...

Anon 9:33 Am,

So that's a good way to rebut my point: character smear when you don't know me (and if you actually do know me, then you know that among my faults, close minded is not one of them).

More to the point, A quick look at the Amherst Police log for September indicates that of 7 people arrested for OUI in September, 6 were aged 22 or less and the 7th was age 23 years old. So the data seems to indicate that the majority of OUI arrests are college age, not surprising in a town largely populated by college students for 10 months of the year.

Further, I did not"say that the Retreat would have caused more DUIs "just like this". Please read it again. I invited to readers to speculate "how often this might have happened had the "Retreat" been built." Given the history of drinking in massive student complexes, in Amherst, it's hardly close minded.

Finally, again, I did not say I "opposed a building project because 'it' would have caused more DUIs "just like this" in North Amherst". I said that "Those of us who opposed the Retreat had just this scenario in mind among other things." My original post was strictly to the point of the accident. There were many other objections to the Retreat being built and you can read about them here:

Dr. Ed said...

If someone bought a house on nothing more than spending less than an hour looking at it, I say that person was STUPID!.

You could have parked in front of your proposed purchase for a few hours on a Friday night. You could have bought a cop a cup of coffee and asked -- or just plain asked a cop. Or firefighter. Or tow truck driver. Or Newspaper Reporter.

Good grief!

Anonymous said...

Were you able to determine how many calls for ETOH occurred over the weekend? Was the number up or down? Who usually makes the call for an ETOH: a witness or friend, the victim, a cop? or other?

I'm wondering if calls for ETOH were affected by the reduced APD staff and revised policing philosophy.

Anonymous said...

Rene you clearly are smoking so good shit. What a moron. You ought to read your post.

Larry Kelley said...

The Assistant Chief emailed this afternoon and said the report would not be done until tomorrow.

APD has very little to do with ETOH calls. UMPD is a different story, as most of the calls come from UMass.

The way it works is someone finds someone passed out in a bathroom or on a lawn.

They then call 911 and UMass first responders (either UMPD or EMTs) assess the patient. If there's any doubt they call AFD.

Same can be said for Amherst College and Hampshire College incidents.

Dr. Ed said...

Who usually makes the call for an ETOH: a witness or friend, the victim, a cop? or other?

When I was a RD (not at UM), I had "Ed's Policy" which was if (a) I didn't know about it, (b) you come get me for help/advice, and (c) you cooperate -- I don't officially see/know anything and no one gets into trouble.

I told them I didn't care how many stolen street signs they had, or how old anyone there was, don't put drunk kids to bed without coming to talk to me first!

I did this because they were hiding drunken kids so they wouldn't get into trouble, and I was thinking "Jimmi Hendricks." And yes I was taking an awful risk with liability myself, but at least I was sober and making something resembling a rational judgment as to severity of impairment.

What Larry may not realize is that there is a step before the 911 call is made -- the peers realize the're "in over their head" and either make the 911 call themselves or seek assistance from an RA who, per protocol, does.

I don't know what percentage of the AFD ETOH transports are lifesaving and what percentage are merely "a good idea" but at least some of those kids wouldn't be dead the next morning if they weren't taken. Yes, transporting is the right call to make and the one I would make as well -- but some of the ones transported probably (most likely) would be OK if you didn't -- it just is a risk you don't want to take.

What Enku Gelaye and the rest of the ACT schmucks are doing winds up encouraging students not to make the 911 call, not to tell the RA, to hide their drunken friend and that's how you wind up with a dead friend. I fear it's gonna happen...

Larry, this is the flip side of making an issue of the number of ETOH runs to the UM dorms, for all of which (I believe) the AFD is paid 100% of billing rate -- which they don't get for, say, runs to Ann Whalen.

Lifeline Ambulance is able to make a profit doing this in Eastern Massachusetts and that's without receiving 100% of their bills as well. So the money is going somewhere an d if not to AFD, well Jeff, make a fuss about that!

Anonymous said...

Since when is it justified, and more importantly safe for a journalist to cross the double yellow center line while driving on a road for the purposes of a mostly irrelevant re-enactment video? Larry, I agree with much of what you present on your blog and also realize your positive overall intent. However I sometimes question whether some of your obsession causes safety issues in and of itself.

Anonymous said...

Rene is so cute, actually thinking that opposing the retreat reduced OUIs. That made me LOL.

All it did was reduce housing, those that are not able to find a place to live will just stay at bars later, drinking more, before driving down unfamiliar roads to crash on a couch....a great formula for a DUI started by resisting the retreat....haha.

And we all know the best couches to crash on are in N.Amherst and Leverett. Watch out on those roads, esp since the retreat is not coming.

What's next relating sunspots and dog breath?

Anonymous said...

Theres no housing shortage in this area. Take a look on craigslist, there are many types available right now all over Amherst, etc.

Larry Kelley said...

CAN 9:19 AM,

At least I did not drink myself to a .20% BAC for the reenactment.

Anonymous said...

Why do the reenactment at all?

Anonymous said...

Hey Larry made a mistake. So did the kid driving. There are similarities. It was stupid to drive a car unsafely. It was dumb to endanger others. You can be drunk or not and still not think clearly behind a wheel. And there are differences. Thankfully, Larry's not-so-smart move didn't put anyone in the hospital. The kid changed the lives of two of his drivers forever. Larry went home after. The kid has to pay the price for his stupidity.

Larry Kelley said...

Geeze, it's not like I reenacted William Tell by shooting an apple of my daughter's head using a high speed drone.

Rene said...

Oh Anon 9:33,6:28,6:27 since you're the same person, you're "so cute" too misrepresenting what I say.