Ithaca, N.Y — You could hear the haunting echo of June 20 in the voices of those who witnessed a truck crash Wednesday on Hector Street/Route 79.
“It’s the second time in just a couple months,” said one man who heard the explosive sounds of a dump truck smashing into trees and a utility pole after apparently losing its brakes while rolling downhill on the steep incline.
The first time — June 20 — was the crash of a tractor-trailer into Simeon’s on the Commons, killing a young bartender, injuring other people and destroying the front section of a historic building. It will be many months before the popular eating spot can reopen.
It will be many more than many months before Ithacans forget the horror of a crash scene that could have been far worse.
And that, of course, was not really the “first time.” As a Voice examination of archives has shown, there have been numerous fatal crashes and close calls over the years at the bottom of the hilly roads descending into Ithaca.
After June 20, city leaders, elected state representatives and transportation officials all pledged action, joined study groups and formed brainstorming teams.
But “the second time in just a couple months” reminds the community that this is a here-and-now issue demanding attention here, and now. Whatever long-term process is in motion must recognize the need for immediate measures to reduce the risk from heavy trucks that lose their brakes as they head downward into the busiest and most populous parts of the city.
This time, thankfully, no one died. Emergency responders expressed amazement at the limited damage. Do we need a next time to rekindle the sense of urgency that was so strong three-and-a-half months ago?
The voices of witnesses Wednesday made painfully plain just how deeply these crashes have shaken the community’s psyche and sense of safety.
It’s time for the wheels of government to accelerate, to begin moving faster than the wheels of these big rigs that continue to pose a lethal threat to the safety of Ithacans.
Simeon’s crash coverage
Trucking firm in Simeon’s crash has lost its operating authority from feds – The company that owns the truck that crashed into Simeon’s on the Commons in June has lost its authority to operate across state lines, according to federal documents. The Ithaca Voice
Titus Gallery, shuttered and splintered in Simeon’s crash, reopens with eye to the future – After nearly two months of restoration, the Titus Gallery is reopening its doors. The Ithaca Voice
What if truck safety in Ithaca is simply impossible? Scrutinizing 8 decades of evidence – “Water runs down hills … and so do vehicles and trucks if they lose their brakes.” The Ithaca Voice
Owners want to rebuild structure that houses Simeon’s – The owners of the building housing Simeon’s on the Commons intend to restore the structure, and the owners of Simeon’s intend to reopen their popular restaurant in the same location. The Ithaca Voice
History of accidents at Commons raises questions about Ithaca intersection – Past traffic accidents at the intersection of North Aurora Street and East State Street both suggest the possibility of future incidents and raise the question of what can be done to prevent them. The Ithaca Voice
Could better signs have helped? Official looks at similar Ithaca roads after Simeon’s tragedy – Former Ithaca Mayor Carolyn Peterson wonders if road signage for trucks ought to be prominent among the questions discussed after the crash. The Ithaca Voice
As life resumes in downtown Ithaca, a city registers its shock — and asks questions – In some ways, life in downtown Ithaca went on as usual Saturday morning. The Ithaca Voice
Ice-cold beer, bubbling mozzarella & Ithaca style: The history of Simeon’s Restaurant – Located on the corner of South Aurora, with a stenciled ceiling and eclectic design, Simeon’s serves its customers in a building more than 140 years old. The Ithaca Voice
Ithaca lawyer, 89, represents client of six decades in Simeon’s crash lawsuit – Walter Wiggins began representing the Cornell Barber Shop as a law school student in the early 1950s. The Ithaca Voice