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Mar 15, 2017 10:41 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Grand Jury Examining Hill Street Crash While Southampton Village Residents Seek Slowdown

An accident on February 1, that killed one person and severely injured another has some residents of Hill Street looking to have traffic slowing measures along that stretch of road.      PRESS FILE
Mar 17, 2017 12:27 PM

A Suffolk County grand jury began convening in secret last week to begin examining the details of a high-speed crash that took place on February 1 on Hill Street in Southampton Village, leaving one person dead and another critically injured.

Testimony continued early this week before the grand jury, which will decide whether or not there is enough evidence to indict Jacob Alegria, 27, of Southampton on any criminal charges. He was the driver of a 2008 Lexus R35 that witnesses told police was traveling west in the oncoming lane at nearly three times the posted speed limit of 25 mph on the residential street, when he slammed into a luxury SUV that had just turned into the eastbound lane from a side street.

The crash killed 20-year-old Charlotte Meyer of Germany, who was a passenger in the eastbound vehicle and suffered severe head injuries. The driver of the vehicle, Luisa “Lulu” S. Keszler, 26, of Southampton, was thrown nearly 30 yards by the impact. She was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital and is still reportedly recovering from her injuries.

Mr. Alegria was injured in the crash, but spent just two days in the hospital.

Multiple calls to Southampton Village Detective Sergeant Herman Lamison seeking comment were not returned this week.

Southampton resident Hilga Klinkenberg said she witnessed the accident on February 1. She was walking along Hill Street and heard a bang so loud that she jumped and fell into some bushes.

“I thought an explosion had happened,” Ms. Klinkenberg said on Monday. “I thought the car had exploded. I started calling 911 as I rushed across the street.”

Ms. Klinkenberg and other village residents say the problem of vehicles speeding along Hill Street is not a new one, and they’re asking for changes to the busy entry point into the village from the west.

“The problem with Hill Street is, from the movie theater to [the Stony Brook Southampton campus], there’s nothing to slow it down,” said Ms. Klinkenberg. “I’d like to see them either put in stop signs or traffic lights, to see them slow it town.”

Village resident Rob Coburn said he has seen traffic speed increasing for most of the 25 years he has lived on Hill Street. He agreed that he would like to see something put in place to help slow down the traffic, whether village officials install additional speed limit signs, indicator lights or even a sign that welcomes people to Southampton but also reminds them that the speed limit is 25 mph unless otherwise noted.

Mr. Coburn also said enforcement is key but does not necessarily have to be done 24 hours a day. Mostly, he said, he would like to see the speed limit enforced regularly and during commuter hours. Enforcement not only means writing more tickets, he said, but it also means making the tickets tougher to be dismissed in court.

In order to tackle the issue and come up with a solution, Mr. Coburn said he is trying to take a three-phase approach, and raising awareness is the first piece.

Mr. Coburn raised the issue with the Southampton Village Board last week. “That accident, in the opinion of many, was historically overdue,” he told board members on Thursday, March 9. He suggested that Village Police increase enforcement along Hill Street, and that any violations should be strictly enforced in Village Court. He also suggested more signs along Hill Street to remind people it’s a residential street, and more speed limit signs.

“[Village Police] are doing much more on Hill Street,” Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley said to Mr. Coburn. “They are there, and they are aware of this situation.” The mayor agreed at the meeting that stop signs would slow down the traffic, but he noted they also would create more congestion.

He told those in attendance that he welcomes their feedback, and wants to see Hill Street become a safer area. “It’s unfortunately a very tragic event that occurred,” Mr. Epley said.

Mr. Coburn also is working to raise awareness of the issue among residents along Hill Street and extending a block north and south of the street, through letters. He said the idea is to make his neighbors aware of what is going on and how traffic and bad driving are going to affect them.

The second piece is to ask for a study that looks into what the village’s Highway Department can do, and then look at what other villages on Long Island have done.

The third piece is implementation, which Mr. Coburn said could mean more speed limit signs, additional stop signs, traffic lights, medians with vegetation, or even signs that show how fast people are going.

As to whether the traffic lights or stop signs would create more gridlock in the summertime during the rush hour commute, Mr. Coburn said he couldn’t care less. “People on Hill Street would much rather have stop-and-go traffic than people speeding down Hill Street,” he said.

Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley did not immediately return calls this week seeking comment on what can be done to slow down traffic along Hill Street, but residents like Ms. Klinkenberg said they want to see something done soon.

“There’s a reason the speed limit is 25 mph,” she said. “Something has to be done to break the flow of traffic on Hill Street.”

Staff writer Amanda Bernocco contributed to this story.

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Sounds like the DA's office has a leak. Probably should get a grip on that.
By Mouthampton (252), Southampton on Mar 15, 17 12:06 PM
just put some cops there and start writing tickets.
By fishy (83), East Hampton on Mar 15, 17 12:14 PM
vehicular homicide
By johnj (536), Westhampton on Mar 15, 17 12:26 PM
2 members liked this comment
Bumps every 200 feet tend to slow drivers down.I think I was a traffic engineer in another life.
By watchdog1 (364), Southampton on Mar 15, 17 12:58 PM
What a novel idea! You clearly are a genius.
By Bayman1 (285), Sag Harbor on Mar 15, 17 1:43 PM
Enforcement of existing laws??? Because of one knucklehead, make more laws???
When Brad sat on hill street and ticketed drivers they slowed down. How about CELL phone abusers, just sit on job's la and main st... ENFORCE
By knitter (565), Southampton on Mar 15, 17 1:58 PM
Bravo on this comment Knitter!! Seems you were heard loud and clear as the Police were enforcing the speed limit on Sunday ! Thank you ! Lets hope this continues on a regular basis." ENFORCE" just as you said. In time, it will be become known to many to obey the speed limit
By toes in the water (368), southampton on Mar 22, 17 7:54 AM
Amazing that the driver has still not been charged! Whiskey tango foxtrot Is going on here?
By bigfresh (2568), north sea on Mar 15, 17 2:24 PM
2 members liked this comment
Since WHEN does a Grand Jury Examine a crime scene THEN decide if there will be an arrest??? Something SMELLS fishy here, and its NOT right. A young life was lost and another person will be recovering for a long time.
By mychildmatters (38), SOUTHAMPTON on Mar 15, 17 3:38 PM
They could make the speed limit 10 MPH and people would still speed. They can put stop signs and speed bumps in and our traffic problem will get WAY worse. It isn't about the car on Hill street, its about the 100 cars behind them that now get backed up even further. The only solution here is enforcement of the current speed limit which should be done more. The fact is, there are two roads going east with 1000s of people on them daily. Accidents will occur. Its a matter of probability. Look at 27. ...more
By Corwin1879 (18), Southampton on Mar 15, 17 3:43 PM
Sure, accidents will occur due to the sheer number of vehicles using the road, but THIS accident... another story altogether.
By SH_Res (328), Southampton on Mar 15, 17 4:10 PM
Traffic heading West on Hill St at rush hour moves slowly. Unfortunately in this case a Driver was speeding West in the Eastbound lane How do you prevent Stupidity!! Unreal there have been no charges yet.Small town justice?
By HPS71 (1), Southamptom on Mar 15, 17 5:44 PM
1 member liked this comment
Check out the new bright lights at East Hampton Village's school zone on Newtown Lane, if you going over 20 MPH during school hours. Aggressive enforcement plus lights like this would slow Hill Street down.

Where there is a will . . .

THERE IS A WAY.

Mr. Mayor, your move.
By PBR (4777), Southampton on Mar 15, 17 5:58 PM
2 members liked this comment
Please stop the bs. The speed limit is 25 mph, and the police are always patrolling that road. People have to obey the laws, and grow up.
By chief1 (2220), southampton on Mar 15, 17 7:19 PM
I'm sorry but Hill Street has nowhere near the speeding problem that CTR 39 does. The stretch from Tuckahoe Rd to East Inlet Rd is an absolute death trap because of a lack of proper traffic lights.
By BillWillConn3 (117), Southampton on Mar 15, 17 10:08 PM
1 member liked this comment
I agree wholeheartedly. The article says there is no slow down on hill street between the movie theatre and college campus, that is inaccurate. There is now a light at the firehouse. The problem is not speed limit's, this was a criminal act and should be treated as such. This was vehicular manslaughter at the least, young Jacob should get his affairs in order.
By icecreamman (280), Southampton on Mar 16, 17 6:13 AM
1 member liked this comment
Some people on the east end have so little to worry about that they create problems where none exists. The speed limit in Southampton Village is enforced extremely well. Anyone that speeds down Hill Street is crazy, and you can't regulate crazy. Nothing needs to be done to Hill Street, the overwhelming majority does the speed limit. County Road 39 is a different story. I would love to see full time, 24 hour speed enforcement on 39. I would do it for free, just for the enjoyment. I normally travel ...more
By deelove (99), Bridgehampton on Mar 16, 17 8:28 AM
I agree about 39. I travel it several times a day and am amazed at the drivers who weave in and out. The 35mph speed limit is important for people who are trying to turn, particularly right hand turns. Enforcement is tough as the police have few areas to sit and even less to pull people over. How about a traffic cam to catch people speeding and mail them the ticket? Might work on that stretch if it is advertised and visible. Look, I am usually not a fan of more enforcement or new laws, but ...more
By dnice (1886), Hampton Bays on Mar 16, 17 10:07 PM
Other then bumps across the road my other solutions are increase the speed to 50mph west bound get people out of that RICH area fast 15 mph east bound and if does not work place speeding cameras at intervals along that stretch of road a 100 or 200 hundred dollar ticket in the mail will make them re think which PEDDLE to put their foot on.
By watchdog1 (364), Southampton on Mar 16, 17 9:24 AM
There is no need to change this road. I drive it every day, the only problem is the occasional dumbass tailgating or someone from the rez riding their quad with no helmet on flying down Hill Street to the smoke shops. This whole accident was caused by a dumbass not obeying the laws. Now he needs to be punished. They should stop blaming the road, the speed limit etc...Personal reasonability evrybody needs to look up what that means There is only one cause of this accident and it was the driver ...more
By suppose 2 do (53), Hampton Bays on Mar 16, 17 12:20 PM
I like the guy who says he doesn't care if the road is backed up. That's until the
fire department or ambulance can't get to his house.
By Old Goat (1), Hampton Bays on Mar 16, 17 4:42 PM
A young woman lost her life & another person still suffers from being thrown 30 feet from the struck car. Witnesses saw the driver responsible for loss of a human being's life and another human being's serious injuries walk away in a confused state from the offending vehicle that was driving over 50 mph (at least) in a 25 mph zone. No arrest, no indictment, no responsibility for this CRIME? This very road was on an episode of COPS - at night a couple leaving the village was going 45 mph and they ...more
By Vikki K (466), Southampton on Mar 16, 17 6:38 PM
1 member liked this comment
A Major Problem that Exists in a Number of Towns and Villages on the East End, and I'm told through out the State is that These Local Judges are Circumventing the System by taking V&T Moving Violations and Playing Lets Make a Deal. The Violator Pleads to a Town Ordinance Violation or a Parking Ticket and The Local Jurisdiction Inflates the Fine and Keeps All The Money thus No Points on Your License, No Insurance Increase and No Deterent. NYSDMV has No Record and the Insurance Companies only become ...more
By Brady (2), Southampton on Mar 16, 17 9:31 PM
1 member liked this comment
15=20
20=25
30=40
35=50
55=70

65=80
75=90
80=?
By Mr. Z (8715), North Sea on Mar 16, 17 9:58 PM
1 member liked this comment
Skillful drivers rarely have accidents at any speed.
By pw herman (352), southampton on Mar 22, 17 8:23 AM
Were the victims of this accident wearing seatbelts?
By Mouthampton (252), Southampton on Mar 17, 17 8:22 AM
Yes.
By SH_Res (328), Southampton on Mar 17, 17 8:25 AM
Seems to me then, that an investigation and safety check should also be commenced into the working condition of the seat-belts so as to see how an ejection from the car occurred.

Not saying that this in anyway should allow the other driver off the hook, however, this could be a contributing factor into loss of life and serious injury of the victims, thus impacting the charges sought.
By Mouthampton (252), Southampton on Mar 17, 17 9:12 AM
1 member liked this comment
It is my understanding that the woman ejected is the one who survived. Seat belts don't always save lives. Sometimes they take them.
By bird (549), Sag Harbor on Mar 18, 17 2:03 PM
There is a STENCH in the Village/Town of Southampton with this case. WHY WAS THIS MAN NOT ARRESTED? How many other folks would not have been Arraigned And charges....with 3 viable witness to this ? NO ONE I KNOW! So.................what's going on here?
By carsrus (48), Hampton Bays on Mar 17, 17 10:37 AM
People are speeding because of gas prices at that station on Hill street!
By dany (16), Water Mill on Mar 18, 17 7:35 AM
1 member liked this comment
Just have whoever paved the parking lot behind Citarella in Southampton pave Hill St. There will crater-sized potholes in no time and you will only be able to go 5 mph.
By Mouthampton (252), Southampton on Mar 18, 17 11:49 AM
The DA obviously does not want an indictment in this case. Nothing about the way it has unfolded, in silence and secrecy, suggests that he does. There were multiple witnesses who reported to the police on the day of the accident that the driver was going 70 mph. Now this entire thread has been hijacked by an absurd conversation about making the speed limit on Hill Street less than 25? There is little you can do about someone who engages in road rage and drives 3x the speed limit, in the direction ...more
By mcreste (3), Hampton Bays on Mar 18, 17 7:47 PM
2 members liked this comment
Certainly the Mayor could have exerted some influence here?
By bigfresh (2568), north sea on Mar 20, 17 7:03 AM
1 member liked this comment
Americana Mortgage, Bob Moulton