People who live near Niagara Falls Boulevard have some advice for pedestrians who cross the four-lane highway: Don’t mess with the boulevard.
On Wednesday night, Sharon L. Alfiere attempted to cross the 45 mph stretch of the boulevard near East Robinson Road, a stone’s throw away from a marked crosswalk and a traffic light.
It was the last thing she did.
Alfiere was the third woman in the past nine months to be struck and killed while crossing Niagara Falls Boulevard, the highway that separates Amherst from the Town of Tonawanda. All were crossing against the signal light and outside the crosswalk. All wore dark clothing. Alfiere was 50 years old. The other two were 49.
It was just minutes before 9 p.m. Wednesday when Alfiere, also known as Sharon L. Caruana, left a Sunoco Minimart and was struck by a black Chevrolet Camaro. The impact knocked her from her red and white running shoes, said one witness, who arrived on the scene within seconds of the accident.
“When I pulled up, she was facedown on the ground,” said Kimberly Davis, 19. “Her shoes were behind the car, and there was glass all over. We were in shock.”
Davis – who works at Jim’s Steakout, 2952 Niagara Falls Blvd. – was driving to a friend’s house with her boyfriend when she came upon the accident scene. Already, other drivers had gathered, getting out of their vehicles to surround the woman. One driver tended to her, Davis recalled. Another covered her with a blanket.
“The driver of the Camaro was outside his vehicle talking on his phone,” Davis said. “He kept on walking up to where she was lying, and then going back to his car. That’s when the police came.”
Amherst police identified the driver as David J. Miller, 27, of North Tonawanda. Miller was not charged, and the investigation is ongoing, said Amherst Police Capt. Patrick McKenna of the Accident Investigation Unit.
McKenna declined to comment on witness reports that the woman was homeless, frequented nearby motels and often stopped at the gas station minimart.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” McKenna said. “We were able to identify the victim, and we did have some contact with her in the past, but we don’t delve into her life.”
Police said Alfiere died at the scene.
According to witness reports, she was wearing a black hoodie and black slacks.
Within the past nine months, two other women were struck and killed by vehicles as they attempted to cross Niagara Falls Boulevard at Willow Ridge Drive, about five miles south of East Robinson, reported Town of Tonawanda police.
• Lisa Monaco of Buffalo was killed when she crossed the boulevard to wait for a bus shortly after 9 a.m. on Aug. 9, police said. Monaco had been using a phone at a nearby 7-Eleven store. The 65-year-old driver of the Ford Taurus that struck her told police he did not see her in the curb lane. No charges were filed.
• Jeraldine Tater, who lived in a motel room on the Amherst-Town of Tonawanda border, died after she was struck by a Chevrolet Cruze just before dawn on June 5. Tater also had used the 7-Eleven phone before she died trying to cross the boulevard in darkness and rain.
The second accident prompted Town of Tonawanda police to seek a meeting with the state Department of Transportation to discuss safety improvements at the intersection.
Lt. Nicholas A. Bado, spokesman for the Town of Tonawanda Police Department, on Thursday declined to comment on the fatal accidents or the meeting.
“We’re in a position where we can’t speak because of ongoing litigation,” Bado said.
At the time of the summer accidents, however, Tonawanda police said the two pedestrians made poor decisions by trying to cross the boulevard without the right of way.
Tyler Hartline, 21, lives in Amherst blocks from the boulevard. He often bikes the streets, and is familiar with the rules of the road.
“There’s no reason to jaywalk, especially when there is a crosswalk,” Hartline said. “It’s just way too dangerous. It’s one of the busiest streets. Take a minute out of your time, walk to the crosswalk and be safe.”
Hartline, who works at an area restaurant, said he sees fender-benders occurring in the East Robinson-Niagara Falls Boulevard area frequently, most often near the Tops plaza by Wegmans and Kohls.
“You can’t run across the street against the light in the dark,” Hartline said. “That’s not good.”
Davis, meanwhile, said she won’t soon forget the fatal accident she and her boyfriend came upon Wednesday night. She said she avoids walking on busy thoroughfares, particularly Niagara Falls Boulevard.
“I just try and drive, and if I have to walk, I watch everything,” she said. “I don’t mess with the boulevard.”