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Monday, September 26, 2022
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‘Freak accident’: Stampede collision hospitalizes campus worker

Involved students reflect on traumatic event, suggest on-campus transportation safety changes

A UB Stampede bus struck a pedestrian near Greiner Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 14.
A UB Stampede bus struck a pedestrian near Greiner Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 14.

A UB Stampede bus struck a pedestrian at the roundabout intersection of Lee Road and John James Audubon Parkway near Greiner Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 14.

In the 20 minutes following the collision, students and university police crowded around the victim who has yet to be publicly identified. The victim was later transported to Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital with a non-life-threatening injury to their foot that will require surgery, University Police Deputy Chief Josh Sticht told The Spectrum in an email.

The driver, unsettled and alarmed, apologized profusely to bystanders as university police gradually ushered them away, according to witnesses. He has since been suspended without pay and cited with “failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk” as university police continue to investigate the accident.

‘It was traumatizing’

A week has passed, and the investigation is ongoing. But students who witnessed the accident remain anxious and distressed, and they say their friends have also been hesitant to use UB transportation. 

Witnesses aired their misgivings and wariness about pedestrian safety during interviews with The Spectrum.

“It was traumatizing,” Alexa Fontalvo, a freshman political science major who was on the bus during the incident, said. “Now people around me don’t want to go on the bus.” 

Fontalvo says she and a friend saw the woman in the crosswalk moments before the bus struck her.

“In our minds, we’re like, ‘OK,  the bus is gonna brake, right?’” she said.

It did not.

The bus had begun “rolling to a stop” as it neared the crosswalk, according to sophomore aerospace engineering major Alec McVearry, who spoke with other witnesses at the scene. The woman stepped out into the street to wave the bus down before realizing that it would not stop in time.

She dove sideways at the last moment to avoid the collision straight-on.

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“It was like we hit a huge speed bump,” Fontalvo said. “You heard her legs get run over,” and then he [the driver] kept driving.”

Fontalvo says that the driver didn’t fully stop until students pleaded for him to stop the bus.

John Lamaita, a graduate student studying higher education, was standing in the shuttle during the incident. He recalled the driver struggling to come to terms with what had just happened.

“Everyone on the bus was really stunned,” Lamaita said. “I think the bus driver was really stunned himself. You know, he was trying to pull over to the side.” 

Lamaita doesn’t believe the bus driver was initially aware that he had hit the pedestrian. 

After the shuttle came to a complete stop, the driver and passengers all went to check on the woman.

“She didn’t look okay,” Lamaita said. “It looked as if her feet were ran over. It was a pretty bad scene.” 

Witnesses who were walking by at the time began crowding around the scene.

McVearry, who was late to class, was rushing out of Greiner Hall when he encountered the aftermath of the collision.

“My alarm bells instantly go off,” McVearry said. “This is not something that usually happens.”

McVearry got a better view of the woman as he got closer. He recalls her being middle-aged, around “50 or 60 years old,” with blonde hair. The victim was sitting “up on the road” with her shoes off. 

From the vantage point of the bus, Fontalvo remembered seeing “blood all over the ground” and described how the woman’s legs were “swollen and twisted.”

“She was obviously in a lot of pain,” Mcvearry said. “She was going through shock because she was hyper fixating on things. She was asking people, ‘Where’s my bag? I need my bag,’ completely focused on [that] one thing instead of her entire legs being run over by a bus.”

Though shaken, McVearry took it upon himself to call university police and stayed at the scene until an ambulance arrived, trying to piece together what had happened from the accounts of other students and the woman herself. He says he “almost shut down,” but didn’t. 

It took roughly 15 minutes for both campus police and medical personnel to arrive at the accident site, McVearry says. In the meantime, he worked with several other students to move the victim closer to the sidewalk.

McVearry tried his best to comfort her as they waited for first responders to arrive.

“She was sitting basically with her legs stretched out, kind of gazing off into the distance,” he said. “I did my best to talk to her, but honestly, I didn’t know quite what to say.”

‘The university should not let him drive again’ 

Fontalvo says she and her friends now try to avoid the Stampede because they “don’t feel safe” in the wake of the accident.

Citing a past “habit of jaywalking,” Lamaita says that he will no longer take his chances crossing the street and is more conscious of nearby Stampede buses.

“Now when I see a bus on campus — or really anything — but mostly the Stampede, I don’t cross, I wait,” Lamaita said. “It’s just like [one of] those little experiences you have, it really makes you open your eyes more.”

Students who heard of the incident second-hand via social media shared their own concerns. A video posted by @buffsbarstool captured the aftermath of the collision and inspired at least two posts — one inquiry and one meme — on UB’s Reddit page.

Liam Riter, a freshman history and adolescent education major, says that what happened is “kind of scary,” but admitted that he would continue to use the Stampede for transportation. Other uninvolved students interviewed by The Spectrum shared that sentiment. 

But Fontalvo, who experienced the accident in its entirety, called for stringent repercussions.

“I think that the university should not let him drive again,” she said. “At least he could have another job on campus, but I don’t know about driving.” 

University police say the driver — a 14-year employee of the university’s transportation partner, First Transit — had a clean driving record prior to Wednesday’s accident.

Lamaita stresses students to tread carefully when walking on campus. 

“The reality is that you’re not going to always have people always overseeing everything that’s happening on campus,” she said. “So you need to be the one that’s really paying attention.”

But McVearry believes that the accident went viral because of how rare similar incidents are on campus.

“So much worse could’ve happened,” McVearry said.  “It was kind of a freak accident.”

Kayla Estrada is a senior news/features editor and can be reached at kayla.estrada@ubspectrum.com

Kyle Nguyen is a senior news/features editor and can be reached at kyle.nguyen@ubspectrum.com 

Victoria Hill is a staff writer. The news desk can be reached at 

news@ubspectrum.com 


KYLE NGUYEN
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Kyle Nguyen is a senior news/features editor at The Spectrum.


KAYLA ESTRADA
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Kayla Estrada is a senior news/features editor at The Spectrum. She is an English major who enjoys rainy weather, “Bob’s Burgers” and asking people who they voted for. When she’s not writing, she can be found hunting for odd-looking knick-knacks at the nearest thrift store.  

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