Fatal one-car accident on Bender Lane in Delmar, Saturday, Nov. 19. (Photo by Thomas Heffernan, Sr./spotlightnews)
DELMAR — “I have been covering crashes for over 25 years, and I don’t ever remember seeing a crash with such devastation,” said Thomas Heffernan, Sr., a freelance photographer who captures automobile accidents on his camera. “Just unbelievable.”
Guilderland resident Thomas G. Brown, 20, was declared dead shortly after arriving to Albany Medical Center Hospital. Bethlehem Police received a report of a car crash at the intersection of Bender and Stonewall lanes in Delmar at approximately 3:21 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 19.
Responding members of the Bethlehem Police Department, Elsmere Fire Department and Delmar-Bethlehem EMS quickly extricated Brown from what remained of his car. Investigators were quick to determine that speed played a factor in the one-car accident. Bethlehem Police said Brown was traveling northbound on Bender Lane before he lost control of the car, left the roadway, and crashed into several trees. When emergency crews arrived, his silver Subaru was severed in two.
Brown, a graduate of Bethlehem Central High School, was a popular young man. He was a car aficionado. He and his friends were a part of car clubs who would meet at the Wal Mart parking lot in Glenmont, showing off the modifications done on their respective cars. Brown was also known to speed. On a Facebook comment he posted on his account Thursday, Nov. 17, he stated that if he received another ticket, he would have “a total of 10 or 11 tickets to take care of.”
A half hour later, he posted “I just got pulled over AGAIN lmao.” There was no indication as to why he was pulled over, nor by what agency. According to a follow-up reply, the police officer chatted with him about his car and ultimately let him go without a ticket.
“I can confirm that he had been cited previously, by Bethlehem Police in November of this year, and did have outstanding violations in Bethlehem Court.” said Bethlehem Police Commander Adam N. Hornick. “He has been contacted by Bethlehem Police on more than one occasion in reference to the operation of his vehicle.”
Hornick said there was a “large gathering” of similar car clubs the following day at the Glenmont WalMart. “While mostly peaceful,” said Hornick, “there were people doing excessive burnouts in the parking lot, which drew a greater police presence.”
Hundreds of people expressed their condolences over Brown’s death on social media, many of who commonly followed with “drive safe.” Another post stated, “the Bender challenge has to end.”
Hornick said he’s familiar with “time racing,” but that the accident took place on the north stretch of Bender Lane, not associated with any known racing. The southern stretch of Bender Lane had long been a time course, but racing on the winding road has
waned since the town installed a one-way exit to Rte. 9W.
Hornick confirmed Brown was leaving a friend’s house before the accident and was unlikely racing.
“Unfortunately these incidents show the hazards of driving recklessly,” said Hornick. “Public highways are no place for operation like this. We continually get complaints of excessive speed on many roadways in town, and we work diligently to patrol as many of these areas as possible, as often as possible.”
At a few minutes before 3 a.m. Saturday morning, Brown re-posted a meme focused on his apparent passion for driving, stating, “Me: I’m gonna drive normal today. Inner Me: Hit boost and redline every gear.”
His accident was called into Bethlehem Police a half hour later.
“This loss of life is none the less tragic and unfortunate,” said Hornick. “Hopefully, others will learn from this unfortunate set of circumstances and work together to ensure it does not happen again.
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.