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7-MONTH-OLD IN CAR SEAT UNHURT IN KENSINGTON CRASH

A 9-ton stake truck traveling on the Kensington Expressway Tuesday afternoon rear-ended a car where a 7-month-old baby was secured in the back seat, Cheektowaga police reported.

"Miraculously, nobody was seriously injured," said Officer Carl Hendel, an accident investigator.

The accident occurred in the center eastbound lane, near the Harlem Road underpass, and was reported at 4:14 p.m. It involved the stake truck and three cars that were stopped in traffic.

Moments before the accident, vehicles slowing in traffic forced another large truck to swerve into the right lane to avoid an accident, Hendel said. The car that had been immediately behind the truck stopped and the others behind it followed.

The stake truck owned by a West Seneca tree removal service and driven by Andrew Pries, 22, of Main Street, Delevan, hit the car stopped in front of him, starting the chain reaction, Hendel said.

"The front bumper of the truck actually was on the rear deck shelf of the car," Hendel said.

Sitting in a child safety seat in the back of that car, 7-month-old Madeline Garvin suffered only minor injuries when she was hit by debris, the officer said.

"The parent did her job and the product did its job," Hendel said.

That car, driven by Jill Garvin, 30, of Huxley Drive, Amherst, hit the car in front of her, which was driven by Alexandra Vettenburg, 26, of East End Avenue, Buffalo. In turn, her car hit one driven by James Saemenes, 26, of Rees Street, Buffalo.

Ms. Vettenburg and Saemenes were traveling alone. They, the Garvins and Pries were taken to Erie County Medical Center, where they were treated and released.

Charges are pending against Pries, and the truck has been impounded for a safety check, the officer said.

Hendel said similarities were evident between Tuesday's crash and the fiery, March 11 chain-reaction accident on the southbound Niagara Thruway along the Buffalo waterfront that claimed six lives. State police said the March 11 crash was caused when a car carrier slammed into traffic that was slowed by a minor fender-bender.

The Kensington Expressway, with a posted speed limit of 50 mph, poses its share of problems, Hendel said. "Basically, what everybody does is drive too fast, too close to each other," he said.

Due east of the Harlem Road underpass, traffic is entering the expressway from the Maryvale Drive on-ramp, while other traffic is trying to edge to the right lane to catch the exit ramps to the Thruway.

"It's just really tight there," Hendel said. "It's kind of like a bottleneck.

"All it takes is just one person not paying attention," Hendel said.

Tuesday's accident left vehicles trying to squeeze by the scene on the left shoulder, along the Jersey barrier. Trucks too wide to pass through were stacked up in traffic until the site was cleared at about 5:30 p.m.

Hendel emphasized the two biggest problems on the roadway are speed and traveling too close. "Everybody does it," he said.

Ideally, motorists should space themselves from other traffic by a car length for every 10 mph, Hendel said. Instead, they're driving practically on top of each other.

"It's next to impossible to enforce any speed up there, at that hour of the day," Hendel said. "I really don't know what the answer is up there."

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