ILION — A fatal accident at the intersection of state Route 5 and West German Street in the town of Herkimer last week brought back memories for an Ilion couple whose daughter died at the same intersection 19 years ago.
Gene and Betty Johnson, of Ilion, said their 17-year-old daughter Jennifer was driving on Route 5 on Sept. 15, 1997, when she attempted to make a left hand turn on to West German Street as she headed to class at Herkimer County Community College. Her vehicle was struck by an oncoming vehicle in the westbound lane on Route 5.
Jennifer was first hospitalized in Syracuse, but was then transferred to a Buffalo hospital. After seven weeks, she succumbed to her injuries and died Nov. 4, 1997, at the age of 18.
It was a similar situation on Jan. 25 when Scott A. Fuller, 55, of Utica, was making a left hand turn onto West German Street at the Route 5 intersection, and his vehicle was struck by a westbound vehicle driven by James G. Schulze, 60, of Ilion.
Karen J. Fuller, 48, was a front-seat passenger in the vehicle and died from her injuries related to the accident. Her son, 21-year-old Herkimer College student Austin C. Fuller, was a passenger in the backseat of the vehicle and suffered severe head trauma. He was in critical condition at the time of the accident, but an official update on his condition was unavailable. Three others were injured in the accident with non-life threatening injuries.
State police said in its initial report that Schulze failed to stop at a red light and that the investigation was continuing. On Monday, police said the investigation was still continuing and that no tickets had yet been issued.
Gene and Betty Johnson said they were "angry" to hear about last week’s accident.
"We’ve got to do something about that road," said Gene Johnson, during an interview at their home Monday.
Betty Johnson said it was about two months after her daughter’s death they started with petitions to make changes at the intersection. They estimated Monday they had at least 2,000 signatures on a petition to do something about the intersection to local representatives of the state Legislature in 1998.
The efforts led to a three-color traffic light being placed at the intersection, including a protected green arrow signal. A "Prepare to Stop When Flashing" sign with yellow caution lights is also posted near the curve in the westbound section, where the view of the oncoming traffic light at the intersection is out of view.
"We fought to get those lights up," said Betty Johnson. "What they should do now is reduce the speed from Wal-Mart to The Domes and have state troopers patrol the roads."
"It’s a senseless death," she added.
Those interested in helping the Johnsons move forward with their petition can call 717-7418 or 939-3255.