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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

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Officials to review safety issues following tragic incident

Published 8:21 pm, Thursday, July 31, 2014
  • Benjamin Olmstead, 71, of Norwalk, was struck by a Dodge Ram Wednesday, July 23, 2014, at the intersection of New Norwalk Road, also known as Route 123, and East Avenue in New Canaan, Conn., while spray painting the road. He died the next day. Photo: Nelson Oliveira / New Canaan News
    Benjamin Olmstead, 71, of Norwalk, was struck by a Dodge Ram Wednesday, July 23, 2014, at the intersection of New Norwalk Road, also known as Route 123, and East Avenue in New Canaan, Conn., while spray painting the road. He died the next day. Photo: Nelson Oliveira

 

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NEW CANAAN -- Following the death of town employee Benjamin Olmstead, who was struck by a pickup truck while working at a downtown corner last week, town officials are planning to meet next week to discuss safety improvements to that area.

Olmstead, a 37-year veteran of the Department of Public Works, died July 24 at Norwalk Hospital, one day after he was hit by a Dodge Ram at the corner of New Norwalk Road and East Avenue, according to police.

Twenty-three years ago, a 34-year-old pregnant woman was struck and killed by a car at the same intersection, according to a Nov. 9, 1991, article in The Hour.

Susan Ryan Conte, of Norwalk, was walking back to a doctor's office on East Avenue after her car broke down at the intersection, the article stated.

The fetus did not survive the accident.

Though East Avenue, also known as Route 106, and New Norwalk Road, also known as Route 123, are state roads, First Selectman Robert Mallozzi said he would meet with Department of Public Works officials to discuss recommendations for improving safety at the site.

Olmstead, a 71-year-old engineer and surveyor for the town, was spray-painting the intersection and was working alone, according to Public Works Director Michael Pastore.

The pickup truck was traveling north on New Norwalk Road and was attempting to make a left turn onto East Avenue, Police Chief Leon Krolikowski said, when Olmstead was struck. The Norwalk resident suffered "serious injuries" and was transported to the hospital by the New Canaan Volunteer Ambulance Corps, according to the chief.

An official cause of death has not been released. Krolikowski said "it's really early in the investigation" and police haven't received the final results of Olmstead's autopsy.

The driver and sole occupant of the pickup, 60-year-old Francesco Sorge, also of Norwalk, immediately stopped and remained at the scene. The chief said "it appears" that Sorge would not be charged in the accident.

Pastore would not elaborate on the safety measures that were in place when Olmstead was working. Traffic cones, stop paddles and sawhorses were seen in the area the day of the accident, but officials would not confirm whether Olmstead was using them and they would not say whether the road was blocked.

Mallozzi said "this death has reminded" the town of the importance of pedestrian safety in New Canaan.

"This is a tremendous loss and my deepest sympathy is extended to the entire Olmstead family as well as our Town Hall family who worked with, and loved, Ben so very much," Mallozzi said July 24 in a news release.

Pastore said Olmstead retired two years ago, but continued working part time every weekday morning.

In the past 11 years, New Canaan police have investigated 34 pedestrian-versus-motor vehicle accidents; five of those pedestrians died, according to Krolikowski.

"In New Canaan, both pedestrians and drivers do not obey laws and signals consistently and many often use cellphones while walking or driving," he said in a statement this week.

Olmstead was the third person struck by a car on a New Canaan road since December.

In 2013, there were four accidents involving pedestrians in town, according to police.

One of those victims was Town Council member Kathleen Corbet, who was also hit by a Dodge Ram while crossing Locust Avenue at the intersection of Main Street on the rainy night of Dec. 6.

In March 2014, a woman was seriously injured after she was struck by a car on the northwestern corner of Park and Elm streets right after getting off a train. Additionally, a toddler died June 6 after he was hit by a car in his family's driveway on Mill Road.

In August 2010, Krishna Jayaraman, 82, died after a hit-and-run accident in front of his Oenoke Ridge home.

The driver, Kate Regan, was sentenced last year to a suspended five-year term with five years' probation on the charges of negligent homicide with a motor vehicle and evading responsibility.

noliveira@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6582; @olivnelson