MICHAEL JOHNSON/Livingston County News
The remains of a Chevy Volt lay in the driveway of the house at Highland Avenue and North Street.
UPDATED: Driver plows into two cars in Geneseo driveway
Stanley Johnson’s front lawn and driveway at the corner of North Street and Highland Road in Geneseo was the scene of a spectacular automobile accident at about 1 a.m. Friday, May 18.
Three vehicles were totally destroyed — including a new Chevrolet Volt — and a corner of the Johnson house and garage was severely damaged.
Maura Duff, 22, of Niskayuna was driving a Toyota Camry southwest on Lima Road. At the intersection where Lima Road meets North Street, Rorbach Lane and Highland Road.
Duff’s car failed to stop, continuing at high speed over a ditch, onto the Johnson lawn and into two vehicles which were parked side-by-side in Johnson’s driveway.
The ensuing crash pushed both the parked vehicles a distance of about 25 feet in a lateral direction. The vehicle receiving the brunt of the impact was a new electric car valued at $42,000.
The Chevy Volt was crushed beyond recognition as the Camry came to rest literally on top of it. A 1998 Grand Cherokee Jeep in excellent condition, parked next to the Volt, received substantial side and frame damage to the extent where it also is a total loss.
The mangled and moving mass of auto steel tore away the bottom corner of Johnson’s garage, while the back of the Camry struck the top of the garage door. Directly over the garage was the bedroom where Stanley and his wife Barb were asleep.
Debris which flew from the crash site was later discovered along the wooded border of neighbors’ property, a distance of 150 feet from the driveway.
The first responders were neighbors — policeman Sherman Yates and Cate Concannon, a trained EMT.
Yates’ swift appearance and reaction in all probability saved the driver’s life.
“Sherm was here by the time I got out of the front door,” Johnson said. “He had just gotten home from work and was shining his headlights on her [Duff’s] car. He told me, ‘Stan, go get your extinguisher. The engine’s on fire.’”
“She [Concannon] was checking on the victim, keeping her calm.”
“I went in and got the extinguisher. Sherm hopped on top of the jeep and put out the fire [in the Camry.]”
Fire and ambulance volunteers and Officer Ray Goulet of the Geneseo Police Department shortly arrived. Duff, who had been trapped in her vehicle when it caught fire, was extracted by volunteers using a Hurst cutting tool.
She was transported to Strong Hospital, reportedly suffering a concussion and fractured hip, neither injury considered life-threatening.
Contractor Steve Burnette arrived later in the day to shore up and support the corner of the damaged garage. On Monday, Johnson was awaiting an inspection by his insurance adjuster, after which more substantial repair work can proceed.
No damage was evident to the solar panels which are mounted on the upper, south wall above the garage.
However, the impact of the crash did additional damage inside the house, cracking plaster as far away as the kitchen wall in the central part of the house, and in another wall even further from the garage. A trailer parked on the south side of the garage suffered a bent tongue.
In reaching the garage and parked vehicles, the Camry had negotiated a straight path through the lawn, narrowly missing a fire hydrant and large tree, while completely tearing out a small tree. Deep tracks visible in the lawn in the area just before the driveway, but not out near the intersection, suggest the Camry may have been airborne when it initially entered the property — and perhaps airborne again when it struck the edge of the driveway asphalt and climbed onto the Volt. A chunk of asphalt is missing from the driveway at the spot where the Volt’s tire rim was driven down by the impact.
No guardrail — but move the bus stop
“No one was hurt. It was just material things which were damaged. Everything can be put back together,” Johnson philosophized.
In the midst of he and his wife’s rude awakening that morning, Johnson “knew exactly what was happening.”
His property is situated directly in line with Lima Road. In the 38 years Johnson has lived at the address, vehicles have driven through the intersection and ended up on his lawn “seven or eight times.” However, until the Friday morning incident, none had gone so far.
Johnson is not advocating for a guard rail barrier at the intersection. He considers the current accident an anomaly and says he can tolerate the occasional vehicle on his lawn. Indeed, he suggests the driver is alive because there was no barrier on the property which would have stopped her vehicle dead in its tracks.
“Human life is more important than material things,” he reflected.
The incidence of such accidents has diminished since the Lima Road stop sign was installed about ten years ago, he noted.
Another fortunate circumstance was the fact that the college semester has now finished.
As many as 15-to-25 college students are known to wait at the Regional Transit bus stop on North Street by Johnson’s house on weekend early mornings, as late as 1:30 or 2 a.m. If such a group of college students had been present the morning of the accident, they would have been standing within a few feet of the path of the errant Camry.
“Anybody standing around there would have been killed,” Geneseo Police Chief Osganian believes.
“Moving the stop is something they could consider. If the college was in session there would have been potential for a real tragedy,” Johnson added, noting, “Sometimes they can almost fill the bus with the one load of people waiting out here.”
Yet another fortunate circumstance was the fact that, thus far this year, Johnson still had not retrieved his classic 1971 Camaro from storage. If the accident had occurred a few more days or weeks into the summer, the Camaro may have been occupying the spot where the Volt was parked.
While both are fully insured and both are valuable, Johnson is confident he’ll be given a replacement Volt within a few weeks or, at most, months. In contrast, finding a replacement for the restored 42-year-old Camaro would be difficult or impossible.
“Barb and I would like to thank the community for the outpouring,” Johnson said. “Everybody’s been here offering their help. We’ve been offered vehicles and anything else we might need. That’s Geneseo.”
Neighbor Sherman Yates tossed his car key to Stan that Friday morning, telling him he wouldn’t be needing the vehicle for the next five days.
The Evidence Unit of the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office also assisted at the scene.
Duff is a recently graduated college student who lived off-campus in the village and seemingly should have been familiar with the highway layout.
Chief Osganian reports no skid marks on Lima Road, indicating there was no attempt to brake while the Camry was still on the roadway.
“She was going at a pretty good clip,” he estimates. “We don’t believe she stopped at all at the intersection.”
Police did obtain the driver’s blood sample at the hospital. Lab analysis will indicate the presence or absence of alcohol, Osganian said, and accordingly charges will or will not be filed.
Duff is facing charges of failing to stop, unreasonable and not prudent speed, and a lane violation.