LEWISTON:LEWISTON: A rumor circulating around town prompted the Niagara Falls Reporter to look into something we normally don't cover: a traffic accident.
On June 1, Gail C. Beutel, 61, of Sanborn, a pedestrian walking her dog across Center Street at Seventh Street, was hit and later died as a result of her injuries.
Since the accident received little attention in media reports, and the driver(s) none at all, the rumor around town is that there was a cover up to protect one of the drivers of the fatal vehicle. Someone with juice, it was said, was getting this quashed.
Here are the facts: The Town of Lewiston police are investigating the fatal accident to try to determine fault. Beutel was struck by two cars, according to police Chief Chris Salada, within a matter of seconds.
The driver of the first car, Albert Walton, 71, of the Village of Lewiston, was driving his car westbound when his vehicle struck Beutel at 2:30 p. m. while she was crossing Center Street at the crosswalk.
Walton is a real estate agent with Great Lakes Realty and, according to a source, a hair dresser known for his business Albert's World of Coiffures on Pine Ave. in Niagara Falls.
According to witnesses, it did not appear Walton was speeding.
One source told the Reporter that Beutel may have darted after her dog after it got loose. She was hit herself. Her dog was injured, but survived the crash.
After Beutel was struck by Walton's vehicle, her body was thrown and she was struck a second time by a vehicle making a right hand turn onto Center St from 7th St.
The driver of the second vehicle, Paul Kankolenski, 73, of Ransomville, according to police, will not likely be cited as being at fault.
Beutel was rushed to Erie County Medical Center by Mercy Flight. She died four days later as a result of her injuries.
Both the Lewiston Police and Niagara County Sheriff’s Office Accident Investigation Unit are investigating the crash. No one has been charged at this point. This is not likely to result in more than a ticket if Walton is cited. Fault may be determined to be Beutel's.
According to police sources, there was no alcohol involved in the crash.
"No ticket has been issued yet," said Chief Salada. "We are doing calculations, trying to determine the speed to determine fault. We are also trying to determine fault from witness statements."
The Lewiston Village Board, prompted by this fatality, has discussed reducing the speed on Center St from 30 to 25 mph. Since it is a state road this may be difficult.
The board will petition the state Department of Transportation to reduce the speed.
According to Article 27 of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Laws § 1151,”When traffic-control signals are not in place or not in operation the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right of way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk on the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling”.
Part (b) of the law is not as well known. It states “No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impractical for the driver to yield.”
In the event of a fatal accident, the determination of “impracticality” is left to the police and courts to decide.
As far as we could ascertain, there was no effort to cover up or conceal the facts of this tragic accident.