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Apr 21, 2009 5:46 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Star basketball player critically injured in car crash

Apr 21, 2009 5:46 PM

Jerome Russell, 18, a senior at East Hampton High School and star varsity basketball player, was critically injured, breaking several bones, after he lost control of the car he was driving and struck a tree at 2 a.m. last Sunday, April 19, in Springs.

He was airlifted to Stony Brook University Medical Center and was conscious by Sunday afternoon, talking with friends who visited him, according to Tafa Peters, an East Hampton High School senior and friend. He is still in the hospital.

“He said he was doing okay,” said Tafa. “He was talking and smiling and now I’m okay that I saw he was all right.”

Police said Mr. Russell was speeding south on Springs-Fireplace Road in a Land Rover early Sunday morning when an officer started following him to pull him over. Instead of pulling over, Mr. Russell passed the car in front of him in a no-passing zone, crossing over the double yellow line and losing control of his vehicle which struck a tree on the southeast corner of Springs-Fireplace Road and Kings Court.

The accident was not life-threatening, police said, although he did suffer severe injuries and the car had significant damage.

East Hampton Town Police Chief Todd Sarris said that alcohol was involved in the accident but he refused to disclose the specific charges against Mr. Russell because he is an “eligible youthful offender.”

Under law, once criminal charges are filed against anyone between the ages of 16 and 18, the case is sealed and the charges cannot be released to the public pending a hearing in court. If a judge decides to give the defendant youthful offender status the records will remain sealed.

“The idea is that a youth of that age has an opportunity to resurrect his life,” Chief Sarris said.

“It was kind of a wake-up call for us,” said an East Hampton senior, who asked to remain anonymous, at a Youth Speak Out on Monday night in Town Hall. “Because every year we lose someone, but this year we hadn’t.” “Everyone was praying for him in school today.”

East Hampton High School boys varsity basketball coach Ed Petrie said that Mr. Russell is planning to continue playing basketball in college, although he hasn’t decided what school he wants to go to yet.

“In general he has a lot of broken bones that he’s going to have to deal with,” Coach Petrie said. “He’s a great player and a terrific kid and it’s just an unfortunate thing that happened. At the present time we’re all hoping he makes a quick and complete recovery.”

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My heart goes out to Jerome and his family. He's an excellent basketball player and a joy to watch on the court.
By MartyMcDougal (24), Providence on Apr 22, 09 9:53 AM