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2nd crash through Humboldt Parkway guardrails raises questions

On Sunday night, for the second time in less than two years, a car plunged through Humboldt Parkway guardrails, plummeting onto the Kensington Expressway some 25 or 30 feet below.

This time, however, the driver survived the crash.

In April 2014, a 47-year-old Buffalo man was killed when his speeding vehicle crashed through those same Humboldt Parkway guardrails, just two blocks from Sunday night’s crash site, and down onto the Kensington.

More than 19 months after that fatal crash, neighbors and loved ones still are waiting for some kind of change to make that area safer.

And they weren’t shy Monday about pointing out the contrast with another incident in another part of the city from earlier this year.

On the morning of June 1, less than 48 hours after a 3-year-old boy was killed by a vehicle that left the Scajaquada Expressway and entered Delaware Park, state workers already were installing signs reducing the expressway’s speed limit from 50 miles per hour to 30.

Several people, including the ex-wife of the man killed in 2014 and local neighborhood activists, are questioning why one tragedy elicited such a quick response, while the other didn’t.

Shannon Waddell-Brown, estranged wife of Kevin W. Brown, who was killed in the 2014 crash at Humboldt Parkway and Woodlawn Avenue, thinks Sunday night’s accident could have been avoided.

“If they had done something when Kevin died, the accident wouldn’t have happened last night,” she said Monday. “I would like to see the state and the city move as fast as they did for the tragedy on the 198 (Scajaquada Expressway).”

She contended that the Humboldt Parkway guardrails are faulty and frail, suggesting they need to be higher and stronger.

That appeared to be true again Sunday night, when the eastbound vehicle plummeted onto the Kensington, an incident that may be related to a homicide earlier that night.

Buffalo police remained tight-lipped Monday about that shooting death, but they did say that the shooting prior to the crash on Route 33 appeared to have been targeted.

The gunman kicked open a door to the home in the 300 block of Purdy Street shortly before 8:30 p.m. and began shooting, leaving a 42-year-old Buffalo man dead at the scene, police said.

A 24-year-old woman was taken to Erie County Medical Center, where she was listed in stable condition.

Detectives continue to investigate whether the Humboldt Parkway accident at Glenwood Avenue “a short time later” is connected to the homicide, police said.

The Purdy Street homicide scene is several blocks north of Glenwood. If the person fleeing the Purdy address, for whatever reason, drove south to Glenwood, it would have been a straight 12-block route east to Humboldt Parkway.

On Monday morning, skid marks headed straight toward the guardrails could be seen on the pavement. Concrete barriers and orange construction barrels were placed overnight at the point where the car went over the edge.

Waddell-Brown, who raised three children with Brown, wants to see the end of these through-the-guardrail incidents. “I do not want another family to go through what our family has gone through,” she said. “We’re still grieving and healing. When this happened (Sunday night), it made us grieve again. We want to force a positive change from this tragedy.”

Larrone B. Williams, former president of the Glenwood Block Club, questioned the different government responses to the two fatal accidents, one inside Delaware Park, the other along Humboldt Parkway last year.

“I think that people who live in the Parkside area, on the more affluent side of Main Street, get a larger and quicker response to crises,” Williams said. “They tend to have an inside track. I think we’re underserved.”

Williams asked, “What warrants a response to death? I’m extremely sad that this child died, but is the reduction of the speed limit an overreaction, and the reaction to (the fatal crash on Humboldt Parkway) an underreaction?”

Williams suggested that the guardrails at least could have some reflectors or reflective paint, to better alert drivers to the danger. “The question is, what is the level of maintenance of these roads and bridges?” Williams said. “Who’s responsible to make sure these things are maintained?”

Common Council President Darius G. Pridgen said he thinks the response to the Scajaquada Expressway tragedy was appropriate, as far as making the road safer. The question now moves to the safety of the Kensington Expressway, including Humboldt Parkway above it.

“Now we expect that same response on the 33 (Kensington Expressway),” Pridgen said. “I’m going to urge the state to study the entire (Route) 33 in the City of Buffalo, to make sure it is meeting the safety needs for the 21st century. Are the guardrails and the support system safe enough for the current traffic pattern and vehicles on the road?”

Pridgen was asked about the vast difference in government response times between the Scajaquada and Kensington expressway situations.

The Council president pointed out that there already was an organized group in the Scajaquada-Parkside area trying to do something about the expressway, well before last spring’s fatal accident there. And Pridgen sees a similar organized effort now among people in the Kensington-Humboldt area. “So I would expect a rapid response” there, too, he added.

Susan S. Surdej, regional spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, said that it would be premature to comment until transportation officials learn more about the vehicle’s speed and angle of impact.

In an emailed response, she added that the concrete median barrier was placed at the crash site as a precaution until a new bridge rail can be installed.