November 29, 2001

T-Cat Bus Accident Injures Ithaca Man

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Last Friday, at approximately 5:31 p.m., a TCAT bus hit Alan Sigle, 76, as he crossed at the intersection of East Green and South Cayuga Streets.

Suffering a head injury, Sigle was airlifted to Robert Packer Hospital after treatment by the Ithaca Fire Department and ambulance personnel on the scene. He has since been released from the hospital.

The bus driver, James T. Damery, 59, is scheduled to appear in Ithaca City court to answer the charge of, “failure to yield the right of way to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.”

Damery’s post-accident drug and alcohol tests recently came back with negative results.

Neither excessive driving speed nor weather are considered to have been relevant factors in the accident, according to Sergeant John Curatolo, head of the Ithaca Police Department’s traffic division.

He said that the accident was “just a matter of driver inattention. He [Damery] didn’t see him [Sigle].”

Rod Ghearing, the director of TCAT, said that Damery, a part-time driver, is eligible to drive again after the substance tests returned negative results.

The last major TCAT bus accident involving a pedestrian occurred on March 16, 2000, when Cornell student Michelle Evans ’01 was killed.

In that case, the driver, Timothy Stranger, failed both his drug and alcohol tests. He was later indicted on several counts, including second-degree counts of manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter and assault.

After the indictment, Stranger pled guilty to criminally negligent homicide, driving while abilities were impaired by drugs, and operating a commercial motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Ghearing says he believes Stranger has since served his sentence.

After the accident, Evans’ family filed a $4 million lawsuit against Stranger, TCAT, Tompkins County, the City of Ithaca, and Cornell University. The lawsuit is still pending.

Despite recent accidents, Ghearing said that TCAT has a good safety record compared to similar sized bus systems.

“We have an active training program and defensive training and driver training,” he said.

After the accident involving Evans, the University widened Wait Ave. and replaced pavement at the intersection of Wait and Thurston avenues. No changes are currently being considered in the wake of this most recent accident.

To prevent future accidents, Sergeant Curatolo said he is making several recommendations for pedestrians.

“We would suggest that even if you have the right of way and are crossing the street you still pay attention to what is going on.”

“Drivers need to yield to people in the crosswalk and be attentive,” he said.

Meghan Miller ’05 said she feels that the TCAT buses are fairly safe, although she said, “Sometimes they tend to go down narrow roads faster than they should.”

“I haven’t been here over winter yet, but I’m thinking safety will be more of a concern when it gets snowy,” she added.

She also said that, “I think the cars expect the pedestrians to stop and the pedestrians expect the cars to stop. In both cases, they’re careless.”

Archived article by Shannon Brescher