Truck strikes, kills 11-year-old girl in C'ville

Friday July 15, 2005

Newspaper Photograph

A baseball cap lies in the roadway as Cortland County Undersheriff Marty Coolidge, right, gives measurements to investigator Todd Caufield at the scene of a fatal accident on McLean Road Thursday afternoon. An 11-yr-old girl was killed when she was struck by a pickup truck, seen in the background, owned my Monro Muffler Brake.

By PATRICK C. RUPPE

    CORTLANDVILLE – An 11-year-old girl was hit and killed Thursday afternoon when she ran out into McLean Road Extension near its intersection with Route 13.
    Alayna N. Robinson, of the nearby Village Terrace Apartments off Route 13, was hit shortly after 3:30 p.m. by a pickup truck driven by Joseph C. Mungin, 22, of Moravia, according to the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department.
    Robinson ran between two cars that were waiting at a stoplight and out into the middle of the road, an eyewitness said.
    “I saw three little girls in the Kwik Fill gas station parking lot heading toward Grand Rental Station,” said Dennis Russell, a McGraw resident who was waiting at the stoplight Thursday.
    He said two of the girls stopped as they neared the edge of the parking lot but Robinson continued in between his car and a Ford Explorer that was waiting just in front of him.
    “She ran right in front of me” Russell said. “I didn’t see him (Mungin) until I saw her crossing the road. Then I looked over hoping that nothing was coming, and then I saw that something was.”
    Mungin, a Monro Muffler Brake employee, was driving a 2003 silver Dodge company pickup truck.
Russell said he did not see if the driver was approaching from Starr Road or had turned from Route 13.
    “I beeped my horn a couple times and yelled out the window for her to stop,” he said.
    Russell said neither the driver nor the girl had a chance to react once Robinson stepped across the double yellow line.
    “The truck had no chance to see her,” he said. “I don’t think that either one of them saw each other at all.”
    Moments after the accident, rescue vehicles flooded Mclean Road. Nearly 30 onlookers stood in disbelief as family members stood embracing and crying.
    A Hershey’s candy bar, a box of candy, a pair of flip-flops and a baseball cap littered the road nearly 30 yards from where the girl’s body lay.
    Police scattered to find eyewitnesses who could help explain what had happened.
Mungin, noticeably shaken, was helped into an ambulance shortly after 4 p.m. and taken to Cortland Memorial Hospital. Police said he had no physical injuries.
    County Coroner Bryan Riccardi said this morning that he pronounced Robinson dead at the scene at 4:12 p.m.
    “At this point we don’t know the exact cause of death,” Riccardi said. “We are having an autopsy performed today at Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton.”
    The county Sheriff’s Department is still investigating the incident and no charges have been filed against Mungin.
    Robinson had just finished the fifth grade at Barry Elementary School in Cortland.
    This morning, Barry Principal Fed Amante described what kind of student he remembered her as being.
    “She was one of those kinds of kids that just wanted to help everybody,” he said. “She was kind of quiet, kind of shy, very kind and very helpful.”
    Amante said the school would have counselors on hand today and Monday for Robinson’s classmates and friends and their families.
    Counselors will be at the school today from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. today and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday.


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DOT to modify dangerous C'ville intersection

Friday, September 2, 2005

By PATRICK C. RUPPE

    CORTLANDVILLE – The state Department of Transportation will soon be changing the traffic pattern at the intersection of McLean Road Extension and Route 13.
    The DOT’s study of the intersection was prompted after an 11-year-old girl was struck and killed by a truck on July 14 when she stepped out into oncoming traffic on McLean Road Extension.
    The stoplights at the intersection now run in two phases: green lights in both directions on Route 13, and another phase that allows traffic to move in both directions on McLean Road Extension and Starr Road.
    “It’s going to be changed to a split phase,” said Ray McDougall, operations engineer for DOT’s Syracuse office. “That means the signal is going to have three phases.”
    Traffic will continue to move in both directions on Route 13 during green lights, he said. Once the DOT chances the pattern of the lights, traffic on McLean Road Extension and Starr Road will each have a green light while the other is red. The crosswalk will not be changed to stop traffic in all four directions, McDougall said. That, he said, would impede traffic flow too severely. The town had proposed this change.
    McDougall could not confirm when the changes would be complete.
    “It has been a long time coming,” said Ted Testa, Cortlandville Town Board member. “Hopefully in the next month or so it will be a go.”
    Testa contacted state representatives after the fatal July 14 accident to apply pressure on the DOT to make the intersection safer. The town had been asking the DOT to look into the intersection since 2002. The changes that the state is making were originally recommended in a 2002 study by the town’s engineering firm.
    Those (the changes) were some of the things the town requested,” Testa said Thursday.
    “We were looking at both motorist and pedestrian safety,” McDougall said. “This should make it better for both.”
    But he said that ultimately, pedestrian safety is the responsibility of the individual.
    The DOT, he said, could do nothing to provide safety to individuals who do not properly use the crosswalks.
    “Actually, when I was there I did not see any pedestrians, but I could understand why a pedestrian would cross improperly,” McDougall said. “It is a natural shortcut, and I don’t see anything we could do to prevent that from happening.”
    Testa said he would ask the Town Board at its Wednesday meeting for approval to request state funding to erect fencing on the south side of Route 13 along the Cortland Estates mobile home park.
    “I think that would also be a tremendous improvement so we can direct the pedestrian traffic to the intersection,” he said.
    Testa said he would also petition Sen. Jim Seward (R-Milford) and Assemblywomen Barbara Lifton (D-Ithaca) to pressure the DOT to lower the 45mph speed limit along that stretch of road.
    “These are some of the things we are going to continue to pursue,” Testa said. “Both would be very helpful.”
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State Rejects C'ville plea for 30 mph limit

Saturday, November 5, 2005

By JEREMY BOYLAN

    CORTLANDVILLE – Another effort to decrease speeding on the town’s section of Route 13 has been thwarted by the state Department of Transportation.
    Earlier this fall, the Town Board requested the state give it permission to decrease the speed limit from 45 mph to 30 mph near the McLean Road Extension and Starr Road intersection. That request was denied.
    In a letter to the town dated Oct. 19, Carl Ford, acting regional director of the DOT, said, “Our review indicated that the existing roadside development, highway characteristics and prevailing traffic speed patterns justify retaining the existing 45mph speed limit.”
    Town Councilman Ron Rocco did not agree with the findings.
    “It is so amazing to me, as representatives of the people, that we can’t adjust the speed limit in our own town,” Rucco said. “It’s just absolutely absurd. In Skaneateles it’s 30 mph and it’s all farmland. This is upsetting. This is ridiculous.”
    Councilman Ted Testa agreed
    “We’ve been beating our brains out over this for three years, and nothing has happened,” Testa said. “What else can we do? We are at a dead end right now.”
    Testa said the city has a 30 mph zone on Route 13, and the town should have one, too.
    Town supervisor Dick Tupper said the chance of being successful when dealing with the state on a speed limit change is slim.
    “I can’t say I was surprised that they said no,” Tupper said. “All we can do is keep trying.”
    Tupper said the change on the traffic light pattern at the McLean Road Extension and Tompkins Street has made a big difference in the safety of the intersection.
    In September, the intersection was changed from a two-phase pattern to a three-phase pattern, adding a left turn arrow on Starr and McLean roads.
    The traffic light pattern was changed in response to the death of 11-year-old Alayna Robinson, who was struck by a pickup truck on July 14 on McLean Road Extension.
    “All we can do right now is hope that there are no more fatalities,” said Testa.
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