According to Lawrence and Memorial Hospital in New London, more than two dozen people were injured, two with serious wounds, after a vehicle plowed through a crowd at Sail Fest on July 8.
New London Mayor Elizabeth Sabilia said 27 people suffered non-life-threatened injuries and were taken to the hospital though others were injured and did not receive medical treatment.
Upon walking toward the Amtrak station, I arrived right after the incident happened when police set up crime tape up State Street to prevent excessive onlookers.
Looking through the crowd, I quickly realized the entire are was cordoned off with yellow tape temporarily disabling a large crowd of people that came to attend one of the largest annual festivals in New London.
News reports claim that part of that crowd was caused as they waited on the other end of the tracks for a train to pass.
Coincidently, Ned Lamont, a U.S. Senate candidate and volunteers were in the immediate area at the time and I had spoken with his campaign manager only minutes before to understand where to meet them.
Obviously, the accident prevented me from crossing the tracks but I went down, went across at the next crossing, and circled back.
When on the other side of the tracks, I saw police spray painting numbers where bodies and the car were located and took pictures along with other folks who used their camera cell phones.
The car’s windshield had been smashed as if someone almost went through it.
Although many onlookers at both ends of the tracks looked at the accident and waited to cross the tracks, which is a main thoroughfare for pedestrians going between the city pier and the street vendors, one must wonder why New London does not shut off more streets during this festival to increase security for its visitors?
More so, why did it take police so long to study the accident and not even open up part of the walkway so people could get through?
Robert Laine, 89, of Wallingford caused the accident and some speculate he had a seizure while others state he was confused.
Why do we have people who are confused or who may have a possible seizure have a license to drive a car?
I did see an elderly man and woman walk across the tracks but I guess they got permission from police because those were the only ones I did see.
Lemont was not injured and he said, “Some of my workers got hit” as he talked to me in the deli only two blocks from the accident.
No word yet on whether the driver intended to harm Lemont.
One of his campaign managers put ice on his injured head as I talked with Lamont about issues such as the environment, the war on Iraq, the transportation problems along the I-95 corridor, and economic growth in the state.
WFSB, Channel 3, which covers Connecticut news, stated that one of Lamont’s staffers “witnesses said risked his life to save a child from being hit”.
Later in the day, I saw Dan Malloy, candidate for governor who said he heard the latest reports that none of the injuries was serious.
As I went to drive home, I quickly realized that New London decided to turn off their traffic lights and have traffic control officers who stopped vehicles from going certain ways they normally would be going, essentially making two-way streets into one-way streets.
Police encouraged traffic to leave the city only one way when New London has at least two main ways to leave making it easy for one to go between downtown and I-95.
I tried to make a turn on a side street but was instructed by police there not to but rather than wait bumper to bumper in traffic I decided to find another way and went on back roads out of the area.
Obviously, New London needs to have more planning, more street closures, and have working traffic lights for traffic leaving SailFest.
Why don’t they work out a deal with Amtrak or Cross Sound Ferry to offer discounted tickets? The last thing we need is more cars on the road.
Both Lamont and Malloy are urging the state to continue to invest in mass transportation.
It is sad that New London Police Department chose to leave certain streets open that would possibly endanger the lives of the many visitors they have and even sadder that they encourage people to wait in 1 to 2 hour traffic jams to leave.
Sail Fest needs to have more activities going on after the fireworks put on by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation at 9:20pm so there is not a large exodus that the city obviously cannot handle.
Over 200,000 people were expected to go to a fireworks display that requires many to setup chairs as early as 4pm for a good spot since because of all the tents and light posts, good spots are at a premium.