On Sunday, July 8, 2012, there was a fatal accident on the Saw Mill Parkway in Yonkers near the Rumsey Road exit. At approximately 12:15 PM that Sunday, a Mercedes driven by 36 year old Kenyatta Garner of South Carolina was traveling northbound at a reportedly excessive speed when Garner struck a Honda Civic in the right lane and lost control of the vehicle. According to the Westchester County Police, the Garner vehicle then struck a center divider, hit an overpass for the eastbound Cross County parkway, and flipped over numerous times. According to a police spokesman, the Mercedes then “disintegrated”, with twisted metal, debris, and a trail of bodies left behind.
Two passengers in the Garner vehicle were killed when they were ejected from the car: Tony Fortune, 46, and Shanikka Hunter, 28, both of the Bronx. Mr. Fortune was a front seat passenger who was reportedly ejected from the sunroof, and Ms. Hunter was a rear seat passenger. It is believed that neither Mr. Fortune nor Ms. Hunter were wearing seat belts. The other three occupants of the car also suffered serious injuries and were hospitalized at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, with one listed as critical. However, the extent of their injuries has not yet been disclosed.
The driver of the Honda Civic initially struck by the Mercedes, 23 year old Benjamin Ferder of New Rochelle, was fortunately not seriously injured, and was treated and released from Jacobi Medical Center.
The Saw Mill Parkway is one of a group of Westchester County Roadways which is particularly dangerous, (along with the Bronx River Parkway and Hutchinson River Parkway), in that the roadway is narrow, a large portion of the roadway has no shoulders, and there are many short entrances to the parkway making it very difficult to merge with traffic already flowing at 60-70 m.p.h. The Saw Mill Parkway is approximately 30 miles in length, beginning from the Henry Hudson Parkway in Yonkers to I-684 in Bedford. Since 1980, the parkway has been maintained by the New York State DOT, and approximately 95,000 vehicles use the parkway on a daily basis. Construction of the parkway began in 1926, when vehicles were obviously a lot smaller and didn’t travel at speeds over 60 miles per hour. World War II put a halt to construction for a few years in the 1940’s. Widening the parkway was considered in the 1950’s and 1960’s but never happened, and vehicles clearly are travelling at faster speeds than ever with distracted driving becoming a bigger issue, adding to the dangers overall.
It is likely that the final determination of the Westchester County Police will be that the primary factor in this horrific car accident was excessive speed, and certainly toxicology tests will be done to examine whether intoxication played a role. However, there is no doubt that the configuration and narrow boundaries of the Saw Mill Parkway add to the dangers of high speed driving on this roadway. At some point in the future, maybe the issue of widening this well traveled parkway will be reconsidered and implemented.