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Lewes, Delaware
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August 1, 1997     Cape Gazette
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August 1, 1997

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10 - CAPE GAZETTE, Friday, August 1 - August 7, 1997 Public safety issues, delivery trucks top discussion in Rehoboth By Trish Vernon While Dewey Beach to the south is concerned with pedestrian injuries and personal water craft accidents, the City of Rehoboth Beach has its safety concerns as well. Having received the AAA award numerous times for the lack of pedestrian accidents is a feather in the city's cap, but some resi- dents have recently posed the need for a more formal channel to address safety issues. Rehoboth Planning Commis- sioner Bob Scala, who is also a member of the Rehoboth Beach Volunteer Fire Company, called for the formation of a Public Safe- ty Advisory Committee during the July 28 listening post session. "There have been three or four is- sues in recent weeks," he said, cit- ing the "unsafe" cross connection boxes the phone company recent- ly installed on utility poles around town as just one example. Such a qommittee could com- pile a list of intersections where there are obstructions, Scala sug- gested, also noting that from a fire - company standpoint, the recent re- vamping of Rehoboth Avenue at Grove Street is a "mess, and there have been a lot of close calls. Emergency vehicles have a diffi- cult, time getting through as it is, and now you've made it more dif- ficult." (City officials gave the state highway department plan- ners the go ahead earlier this sum- mer to erect pedestrian areas in the middle of the street to facili- tate crossing the avenue at the west end of the city and change the westbound lane configura- tion.) Other examples, Scala contin- ued, are the delivery and work trucks obstructing traffic and emergency vehicles in commer- cial areas, especially on Baltimore and Wilmington avenues. "The Street and Light Commit- tee is already burdened and such a committee could work with the board and chief of police on such issues and let the city manage them," he advised. Before going any further, Com- missioner Jack Hyde took excep- tion to Scala's estimation of the revamped Rehoboth Avenue/ Grove Street area. He said the new configuration was done for safety purposes at the behest of Country Club Estates residents. "We're damned if we do, and damned if we don't," Hyde said. "Like all quick fixes, we didn't look at all of the consequences," Scala replied. "The fire chief was not consulted. But such a commit- tee would set up the process to solve the problem without creat- ing another one. The pedestrian is- lands give a false sense of safety. Someone will run right through those stakes." In a related matter, resident Ellen Smith termed the cross- walks on Rehoboth Avenue "a disaster." At First and Rehoboth, "you're lucky to get half way across to the median, and if you cross to head to the ocean, there are cars making right hand turns." She suggested they adopt the sys- tem whereby all lights are red for vehicles while pedestrians are al- lowed to walk. Mayor Sam Cooper said he couldn't disagree there's a prob- lem, but if they adopted that pro- cedure it would take 25 to 33 per- cent of the time away from vehi- cles, resulting in back ups at the lights. He did, however, agree that the present system isn't all that great, but that he isn't sure of the solu- tion, adding they would contact the state (which has jurisdiction over the avenue) about the prob- lem. Scala interjected that this is just one more example of the need for a Public Safety Advisory Com- Due to increasing complaints over delivery trucks blocking Rehoboth's streets, a special meeting of the Street and Light Committee will be held to discuss the problem on Monday, Sept. 8. All delivery persons, merchants and concerned citi- zens are invited to attend. mittee. However, Commissioner Richard Sargent, said the Street and Light Committee, which he chairs, addresses such issues, "and I wish more people would come to our meetings. I agree we need to look at address these issues." During the "intermission" be- tween the listening post and work- shop, Sargent discussed the issue further with Scala, suggesting that they change the name of the com- mittee to Public Safety, Street and Light, and perhaps Scala would be willing to serve on the committee. Sargent addressed the problem of delivery trucks later in the meeting, announcing there will be a meeting of the Street and Light Committee on the subject at 9 a.m., Monday, Sept. 8. He hopes that merchants, resi- dents, delivery truck operators and city officials can attend that meet- ing in an effort to hash out a solu- tion, as presently, the trucks gen- erally ignore delivery zone laws. Dewey's Route i scene of three pedestrian accidents in five days By Jen EUingsworth Dewey Beach has been the site of three pedestrian accidents in the past five days. While two of the accidents occurred during busy times on the weekend, the latter of the accidents happened during the early hours of a weekday. While there seems to be no clear-cut rhyme or reason behind the incidents - all of which occurred on the town's one-and-a- half-mile stretch of Route 1 - town officials, business owners and residents are searching for answers. Two of the recent accidents occurred on- ly hours apart on Friday, July 25. Accord- ing to Delaware State Police spokesman Sgt. David Thomas, "Kerry Berger, age 38, of Sheliburne, Vt., was walking eastbound across Route l...when he walked into the path of a Chevy Lumina, which was north- bound on Route 1." The vehicle was oper- ated by Sacha Millstone, 38, of Bethesda, Md. Burger was flown by a state police heli- copter to Peninsula Regional Medical Cen- ter, where he was admitted in critical condi- tion with head trauma and numerous other injuries. The Delaware State Police Fatal Accident Investigation and Reconstruction team is assisting the Dewey Beach Police Depart- ment in the investigation. The investigation has, however, eliminated alcohol as a factor in the accident. Dewey Beach Police Chief Ray Morrison said a few hours later, at approximately 1:30 a.m., John Cataliotti, 20, of North Po- tomac, Md., was walking in the southbound lane of Route 1 at Dagsworthy Street, when he was struck by an Isuzu Trooper. The ve- hicle was operated by Jonathan Williams, 21, of Rockville, Md. Although Cataliotti bounced off the hood and windshield of the vehicle and was subsequently taken to Peninsula Regional Medical Center, Morri- son said his injuries were not serious. He was treated and released from the hospital. No charges have been filed and the investi- gation is continuing, said Morrison. The third accident occurred at 1:17 a.m. on Wednesday, July 30. Morrison said David Allen Hammer, 25, of Laurel, was struck in the northbound lane of Route 1 and Dagsworthy Street by a Dodge passen- ger vehicle driven by Annette Gertrude Curley of Seabrook, Md. Hammer was transported by ambulance to Peninsula Re- gional Medical Center withhead injuries, and has been treated and released. No Continued on page 18 Second watercraft accident in two weeks seen on Rehoboth Bay By Michael Short A Pennsylvania man remains hospitalized in satisfactory condi- tion following a personal water- craft accident on Saturday in Re- hoboth Bay. Jesse Martin, 22, of Wilkes Barre, is hospitalized in Peninsula Regional Medical Center after two personal watercraft, often called Jet Skis (a brand name) col- lided Saturday afternoon. The accident was the fourth per- sonal watercraft accident this year. There have been a total of 17 boating accidents in Delaware, and Saturd.ay's incident was the second serious personal watercraft accident in Rehoboth Bayin July. Captain Bayard Holleger of Delaware's Fish and Wildlife En- forcement Agents says that most accidents are caused by operator error. "To tell you the truth, we thought it [accidents] would be higher." "Basically they are out to have a good time. The craft are highly maneuverable ... and they are just not observant to the other people," he said. Hollegel:/said that experience and educ.tion are what are most / necessary to reduce the number of personal watercraft accidents (He said a fifth accident occured when a man suffered a fatal heart attack while riding a personal watercraft, but that is not being considered a personal watercraft accident.) Saturday's accident occured when two personal watercraft car- rying three people collided near Coconuts Restaurant, according to Butch Kinerney, spokesperson for the Delaware Department of Nat- ural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC). Kinerney said the two vessels collided, injuring two people. Kinerney said that alcohol may have been a factor, but that is still being investigated by fish and wildlife enforcement officers. Martin suffered lacerations and head trauma. Ken Haynen, 24, of Reston, Va., was on the same ves- sel and suffered multiple lacera- tions. The driver of the other per- sonal watercraft, Scott Schorbert, 23, of Herndon, Va., was unin- jured. Earlier this month, another acci- dent caused serious injury when two personal watercraft collided. That incident occured July 12 in Rehoboth Bay when the vessels driven by Donnacha Healy and Colin McGovern collided. The two had been riding parallel be- fore the collision. Healy suffered a broken hip and bruised kidney and has since re- turned to his native Ireland, ac- cording to Kinemey. Holleger said that's a typical scenario with many accidents in- volving friends riding close to- gether and collisions. He said that all four accidents have involved rented personal watercraft. That points up the need for more experience and more famil- iarity with personal watercraft, ac- cording to Holleger. "Most people who rent personal watercraft have not had a lot of experience." Rep. John Schroeder (D-Lewes) has sponsored laws requiring the craft to be at least 100 feet from swimmers or other vessels and 300 feet from shore before reach- ing full throttle. Those renting personal watercraft to others are also required to give basic safety and equipment instruction to renters. Schroeder thinks more en- forcement is needed, noting that laws like minimum distances are not always followed. But he thinks most people operate the craft safely and said he doesn't think more laws are needed. But Holleger believes strongly in more education for boaters. "I think it is something we have to address," he said. "[We do need] more awareness and education at the level of the renter." Perhaps the most common problem is that people do not real- ize that when they release the throttle, they can not steer a per- sonal watercraft. That means try- ing to stop means you have no control. The craft depend on the force of the jet of water created by the craft in order to steer. With no throttle, you can't manuever away from a collision, he said. But cutting the throttle, just like easing off the gas in a family car, is the first reaction when trouble starts. But he stopped short of blaming people who rent the craft to others. Holleger said that peo- ple just want to go out on the wa- ter to have fun and "the last thing they want to do is to listen to a lengthy safety lecture."