After setting up this website, I thought I'd wait at least a couple of days between blogs -- spread them out some. However, the Google alert email I found in my inbox this morning left me gobsmacked and I felt like I had to write something about it.
If you've explored this site, you might have noticed the "Crash list" page. The picture at the top of this page is one I made for the that page. It is a photo of the late Dr. Kenneth Rich of Smithtown pasted onto a Google maps street image of the approximate location of his death as a result of a vehicular crash this past Friday evening.
On September 15th I set up a Google alert to let me know whenever there is an online news story about a vehicular crash with a pedestrian or cyclist on Long Island. I did this as sort of an afterthought. When I moved Hempstead in 1995, I had set up an alert for news about Hempstead. I live in a relatively low income area with more crime than I am used to and I was hoping I could understand what is happening in my neighborhood, better. That proved useless since Long Island media rarely reports on crime in Hempstead. Most of the alerts I get are about crime perpetrated outside of Hempstead by Hempstead residents.
However, on the morning of the 15th I did get an alert about the death of a Hempstead woman, Elzire Presume. She was killed by a bus while crossing Sunrise Highway in Massapequa the day before.
I had already started and had been increasingly frustrated by the lengthy processes of trying to get data from the many local police departments about traffic crashes with pedestrians and cyclists on Long Island for two projects that Car-less Long Island is now working on. So, it occurred to me that it might be worth my while to start keeping my own list.
Hence I set up the Google alerts and added the crash that killed Ms. Presume as the first entry on that list.
Although I've had a number of close calls myself, I wasn't really expecting the onslaught of crashes that I have gotten since then. I was expecting maybe one a week, or slightly fewer. However, there has been an average of more than one than one every two days.
It has been only 27 days since September 14th, the date of the crash that killed Ms. Presume, and I've been alerted to a total of fifteen crashes since then -- five of which were critical injuries and ten of which were fatalities!
I keep expecting the alerts to slow down, but they haven't.
This morning's alert was different than the others. For one thing, it came with not one, but three articles about the crash that killed Dr. Rich. The first two (The Daily Journal and Pix11) were very short articles, much like the ones I've gotten about the other crashes. The typical article gives a brief summary of the facts, which is some subset of the following:
1. The day and maybe time it happened,
2. Whether it resulted in a fatality or a critical injury,
3. What hospital the victim was taken to,
4. What the car was doing (turning, driving northbound, etc),
5. What the pedestrian was doing (crossing a street, walking along the shoulder, etc),
6. Usually the name, age and hometown of the victim and/or the driver, unless they were withholding the information about the victim until family has been informed,
7. If it was a hit-and-run or if there was alcohol involved, and
8. If there were charges filed against the driver.
Two of the crashes, including the crash that killed Dr. Rich, were suspected DUIs. Three were hit and runs (one of which was the other suspected drunk driver who killed Charles Velasquez on October 1st and was later apprehended). Most of the time the driver of the automobile stuck around and probably tried to help and probably felt just horrible about it. Charges were only filed in the two cases involving alcohol, and I suspect they will be filed for the other two hit-and-run cases, if the drivers are ever caught. Not much else was said about the crashes or the victims in any of these articles.
However, the third article was a Newsday article that went into detail on the victim, himself.
Dr. Rich grew up in Mt. Vernon and Armok and graduated from Drew University and the Medical College of Wisconsin. He recently quit driving, opting to take his bike the half mile to and from work, instead. He was a good listener. His friends and neighbors say that he was known for his compassion and generosity. He’d bring organic cat food, apples and protein bars to his neighbors. He would come into the office on his days off to check on his patients and he even paid the train fare to and from Brooklyn for one.
Dr. Rich sounds like he was a remarkable man and his death feels like a tragic loss to the world.