First Person account
Stranded motorist witnesses apparent suicide
A motorist and a neighbor were eyewitnesses to a harrowing motorcycle crash on Route 36 last Saturday evening, June 16 — after which they saw the motorcyclist draw a gun and shoot himself.
Harland Brown of Elmira informed The County News that he was towing a newly purchased small flatbed trailer from Buffalo back to his home. At around 10 p.m. he was westbound on Route 36 in Sonyea when he experienced engine failure in his 1991 Civic and was forced to pull over to the side of the highway.
On the opposite side of the highway Brown spotted a private drive labeled “Hagan Road.” Brown decided he would get his car and trailer fully off Route 36 by putting the car in neutral and pushing it and the trailer across Route 36 and onto Hagan Road. He describes himself as ‘a big guy, very strong and fit’; that moving the small car and trailer posed no difficulty for him.
Standing and pushing outside the driver’s door, Brown succeeded in swiftly getting the car and most of the trailer clear of Route 36 and onto the side drive when, unexpectedly, a Harley Davidson motorcycle appeared, traveling westbound on Route 36 at a high rate of speed — Brown estimates 80 to 100 miles per hour.
“I looked both ways before I scooted across the street and didn’t see anything except a faint glare of light in the distance,” he said. “I know [the sound of] Harley Davidsons, but I never heard a Harley coming. Just all of a sudden there was the bike wadded up with my trailer.”
Brown, who was standing by the driver’s door of his car, saw the headlight of the cycle cross the centerline and go into the eastbound lane before the cycle struck the rear of his trailer, which by then was almost fully on the eastbound shoulder of Route 36. At the movement of impact, the tongue of the trailer was in the Route 36 shoulder.
Brown feels it was miraculous that the cyclist survived the impact:
“The trailer was ripped off of my hitch, but only his tire collided with the trailer,” Brown observed. “Both the motorcycle and trailer spun in place 180 degrees. The bike didn’t even fall down.”
Brown said the cyclist laid on the ground for a minute after the crash, but then stood up and walked, and appeared to be unhurt. Brown had called 911 and a person from a neighboring house, who happened to be an EMT, advised the cyclist the lie back down and wait for the ambulance or Mercy Flight helicopter, which had been summoned.
Brown then saw the cyclist sit down by the roadside, remove his helmet, pull a handgun from his waistband, place the barrel to his right temple and pull the trigger.
Brown recognized the fatal handgun as a Glock pistol.
In the aftermath of this tragedy, Brown ended up being detained about four hours, while sheriff’s deputies questioned him and the other witness and then removed and photographed items from the victim’s person and the cycle saddlebags.
Afterwards, plain clothes state trooper investigators came on the scene and apparently took over the investigation. Brown, who himself has had criminal justice training, thought the intensive photographing was unusual.
The only information which police supplied to Brown was that the cyclist had been “coming from Rochester.”
Brown thinks the cyclist may have initially attempted to kill himself in the collision: “Maybe he saw me pushing my car across the street and he was headed for the car,” Brown said.
Brown believes the cyclist’s actions endangered his own life: “At this point I believe he was trying to hit my vehicle broadside,” Brown said.
State Police confirmed that the incident was their case, but, as of presstime, had not responded to our request to identify the deceased motorcyclist, and no press memo has been released.
Brown, who has a property damage claim and has made contact with the insurer of the motorcycle, stated that the cycle is owned by the deceased cyclist’s father. The deceased cyclist himself was a male resident of Mount Morris, he said.
Editor’s Note: It is the practice of the Livingston County News not to identify suicide victims unless they are prominent public figures.