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Driver not charged in death at dangerous Amherst intersection

No charges have been lodged against the driver in the death of a 23-year-old University at Buffalo student who was killed last week as she crossed an accident-prone intersection in Amherst, police said.

Angel McKnight-Miller, 23, was crossing Sweet Home Road near Chestnut Ridge Road early Thursday when she was struck by a northbound vehicle driven by Rocco A. Strangio, 18, of Niagara Falls, police said. Strangio is also a UB student, police said.

Preliminary reports have ruled out drugs or alcohol as contributing factors in the accident that occurred around 12:30 a.m. on a dark stretch of road, said Capt. Kevin Brown, heads of the Amherst Police Accident Investigation Unit.

"It's an intersection where you have many pedestrians," Brown said.

Police are reviewing cellphone records to determine if distraction was a factor. It was not raining at the time of the accident, Brown said.

The intersection has been a long-standing concern to residents living nearby, said Craig Mathis of the University of Buffalo School of Management. For eight years, Mathis lived less than a football field away from the intersection. He recalled numerous accidents that would wake him out of a dead sleep.

"There would be at least three or four a year," Mathis said. "I'd run to the corner, and I'd be the first one on the scene. I'm talking about major accidents, not minor fender benders. It's just a bad intersection. The pedestrian traffic is a constant stream from morning to 4 a.m. There are no sidewalks, which forces people to walk on the street. The pedestrian traffic was never at the level that it is now."

Adding to the dangerous mix is the nearby reconstruction of the median at the intersection of Sweet Home Road and Rensch Road, modifications to the traffic signal at Sweet Home and Rensch, completing traffic signal improvements at Sweet Home and Maple Road and applying a top course of asphalt to the roadway.

"They also just added turning arrows, and there is a pedestrian crossing signal," Mathis said. "Before that, it was a free for all."

Bright orange construction barrels, their tops covered in reflector tape, may compromise drivers' sight lines, Mathis also noted.

"I'd like to see some action taken here," said Mathis, who recently moved three miles down the road. "Install lighting up and down Chestnut Ridge Road, and raise public awareness as to pedestrians. It doesn't appear to be a dangerous spot, but it is."

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