20151120 Driver charged in death of Taylor Lee Banks on Route 51
ALIQUIPPA — A Beaver man has been charged for causing a 2014 accident that killed a bicyclist on Route 51 on Halloween night, according to online court records.
William D. Edenfield, 60, no listed address, was charged Friday by Aliquippa police with homicide by vehicle, causing an accident involving death, DUI, careless driving and failing to stop and give information.
According to police, Taylor Lee Banks, 23, of Braddock was riding his bike around 6:45 p.m. Oct. 31, 2014, in the northbound lane of Route 51 when he was struck by a car and killed. Police said he was headed to his mother’s home in Rochester.
Police consulted with accident reconstruction specialists to determine how the accident occurred. The process of reconstruction often takes several months, officials said.
A suspect was initially taken into custody on the night of the accident, but was later released, police said. It is unclear if Edenfield was the initial suspect.
As of Friday night, Edenfield was not in police custody, according to online court records.
No further information was available.
Much thanks to both V & Jon for organizing the memorial rides that honored Taylor and hopefully added pressure and publicity to bring justice to this horrible crash.
This is only the first step in bringing justice for the family, however. It is still possible for the DA to allow the defendant to plead to lesser charges, etc. so we need to make sure that the punishment fits the crime.
I wonder if some emails from cyclists thanking the DA for brining charges would would be appropriate or helpful?
Couldn’t hurt. I will get that contact info and report back. VB
Articles in the Beaver County Times go behind the paywall pretty fast, so here’s the link and the story http://goo.gl/asAuPK OR
ALIQUIPPA — A Brighton Township man accused of causing a 2014 crash that killed a bicyclist in Aliquippa told police he drank three shots of tequila and seven or eight beers at a bar before driving home.
William D. Edenfield, 60, was arraigned Tuesday morning before Magisterial District Judge James DiBenedetto. He is accused of striking and killing bicyclist Taylor Lee Banks, 23, of Braddock around 6:45 p.m. Oct. 31, 2014 in the northbound lane of Route 51 between Baker Street and the West Aliquippa Bridge. Banks was riding to his mother’s house in Rochester at the time.
According to police, just prior to the location of the crash is a posted sign warning drivers of bicyclists.
The following was released in a police report:
Officers and medics were called to the scene of the crash, where Banks was immediately pronounced dead. Police collected several pieces of broken vehicle components, including a emblem from a Dodge truck.
Through early investigation, police learned the license plate number for truck that fled from the crash. Shortly after, the truck — which had heavy front-end damage — was seen parked in Monaca. Police approached the vehicle and met with Edenfield, the driver and only occupant. Edenfield said he was headed home from South Heights.
Officers noticed that Edenfield appeared to be intoxicated and took him to Heritage Valley Beaver hospital for a blood test. According to the police report, his blood alcohol level was 0.24 percent.
Edenfield agreed to speak with police after submitting to the test. He told officers he “did not mean to hurt anyone.”
Edenfield said he got to D’Amico’s Tavern at 115 Jordan Street between 3 and 4 p.m. drank three shots of tequila and seven or eight beers and left about 7 p.m. He took Route 51 toward Monaca on his way home.
While driving through Aliquippa, he said, he noticed a “twinkle” of something ahead but didn’t know what it was. Edenfield said he occasionally glanced over his left shoulder at the old mill site where he used to work. At one point he noticed he hit something but couldn’t tell what, according to police. Edenfield said he looked in his rear-view mirror and saw something on the side of the road. He pulled over when he got into Monaca, police said.
According to a reconstruction investigation into the crash, when Edenfield hit the bike, he trapped Banks between the guardrail and his truck. This caused Banks to hit several other objects, including wooden and metal guardrail supports while he was dragged by Edenfield’s truck.
Banks’ mother, Beth Ann, said Edenfield’s arrest has given her family great relief. “My family has something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving,” she said.
She expressed frustration over how long it took for charges to be filed in the case. “He’s been out all this time, living his life day to day, and we can’t function,” she said.
According to police, accident reconstruction can often take several months.
Beaver County District Attorney Anthony Berosh previously told The Times that accident reconstruction, unlike other investigations, requires a certified specialist to analyze information from the crash before the district attorney’s office decides if — and what — charges should be filed.
Edenfield was charged by Aliquippa police with homicide by vehicle, causing an accident involving death, DUI, careless driving and failing to stop and give information. According to online court records, he posted a $25,000 bond and is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Dec. 4.
I’d like to give a major shout-out to Jon Webb who took the initiative to meet the family, which prompted follow-up action that maintained public awareness. Also, I must thank Bruce Woods, Jim Logan, BikePgh and the other leaders in the Pittsburgh bike community who all contributed wisdom, insight, and resources to make the rides and calls for action successful.
I’d like to express my gratitude to Vince Troia and the ORTC for sponsoring the Ghost Bike ride for Taylor Lee Banks. Also, StuStrickland and Marlin Erin (Snitgers Bike Shop, Beaver) for speaking eloquently and making our case.
I’d like to recognize the folks that traveled to the hinterlands to support a cyclist’s family that they’d never met before. You all rock.
It’s a relief to finally hear the results of the police investigation, but it’s ridiculous that it took a year.
If the police have dead body, a witness of the license plate, a damaged car with a matching license plate, and a drunk driver of that car at 3x the legal limit tested shortly after the crash, and a confession from the drunk that he hit someone, why do the police not charge the person immediately with vehicular manslaughter and leaving the scene of a crime? Were there a string of other manslaughter cases whose accident reconstructions took higher priority for that year?
I absolutely will not defend the driver here. That said, this is as much PennDOT’s doing as anyone’s. That road should be two-lane, 35 mph. Had it been, Taylor Banks would be alive today.
Here’s a WPXI piece on the arrest.
“…turned himself in” … [then] “posted $100K bond and is out already.”
It took him a year to “man up”? (quoting the article) More like it took him a year to line up the bonding money.
Don’t put me on this guy’s jury.
As a secondary point. Shouldn’t the owner of the bar that helped him get to that 0.23 blood level get charged with something? I know that this will happen in some jurisdictions. Or get sued, at least?
I don’t have a statute to cite, but I believe there is one, if they bother to use it.
IANAL but I believe the bar’s civil liability is predicated on the documentation being on the record and (possibly) a conviction in the criminal case. Then there’s the possibility of action against the bar owner (and possibly the bartender?)
Regarding bar responsibility for serving:
The family of a 7-year-old girl who was killed by a drunken driver in 2010 after he left the Hofbrauhaus restaurant on the South Side on Tuesday reached a $15.6 million settlement with the company. http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2013/05/07/Owners-of-South-Side-s-Hofbrauhaus-settle-in-girl-s-death-for-15-6-million/stories/201305070253
Two cents added:
KDKA, please stop calling these accidents. A crash happened. We know that. Calling it a crash does not presume that either party caused it to happen. This preserves journalistic integrity. Calling it an accident, on the other hand, presumes either party is blameLESS, which is not factually accurate. Do your job, which is to report what is known, and leave it to the police and justice system to determine fault. Just call it a crash, not an accident.
Gotta tell them, every time. Eventually, the message will get through.
I’d like to provide an update on this, if only to recognize the effort that folks made to come out to a ghost bike ride way out in Beaver County (which I so appreciated) and to let those folks know about how the outcome is evolving.
I’ve seen the police report. It took so very long for it to come out, but outside of the timeliness it’s everything you’d want a police report to be – detailed, thorough, specific.
The driver’s day reads like a Greek tragedy. At mid-day he won $1200 on a strip-ticket. I can imagine how that made his day. He went into Monaca to the Red-Wings shoe store and bought a new pair of boots. Then he drove south on 51 to a Crescent bar and had many beers and a few shots in three hours. He departed the bar, driving north on 51 to get to his house in Beaver.
His statement says, he saw something twinkling up ahead, he looked at the former mill site and reminisced about working there, he looked over his shoulder to change lanes and then hit the cyclist. He continued driving away. In about a mile there’s a bridge to the slag dump and an open parking area used by trucks, and he pulled over into that parking area.
People came upon the cyclist lying in the roadway. I heard the audio of two 911 calls, and it’s a terrible thing for the family to hear. Then there was another call. It seems like a few cars came upon the scene and rolled over the bicycle.
A Monaca police officer heard the radio calls and started driving south on 51 to assist with the scene, directing traffic etc. As he drove south he saw the pickup truck parked at the slag dump ramp with front-end damage, and circled and stopped. He spoke with the driver. He contacted the Aliquippa PD and they said, keep him there until we can get there. The Aliquippa PD administered the field sobriety test (which was failed), questioned the driver (who gave a pretty full account) and took the driver to the hospital for a blood test (which he failed).
Today was a suppression hearing before the trial begins. The defense presents two motions. One is to dismiss the charge of “homicide by vehicle, DUI related”. The other motion challenges the jurisdiction of the Monaca police officer to stop at a vehicle in Center Twp over a crash in Aliquippa. And if the officer had no jurisdiction, then the statements, the field test, and the blood test must be suppressed as coming from a poisoned tree.
The jurisdiction question was interesting. Monaca and Aliquippa do not have a reciprocal aid agreement. Aliquippa never put out a request for assistance. It seems like the Monaca officer overheard the radio messages and headed south to help. The defense says, Monaca and Aliquippa aren’t even neighboring jurisdictions – the officer was planning to go from Monaca, through Center Twp, through Hopewell Twp, to Aliquippa.
The defense points out, the Legislature doesn’t authorize municipal police to be roving officers wherever they go (like state police) – there are limits to their authority and jurisdiction, and the defense argues that the Monaca officer wasn’t legitimately in an official capacity when he stopped at the slag dump parking area.
The other motion was about the charge, “homicide by vehicle DUI related”. IANAL but the defense attorney argues, this charge requires three things: to be drunk, to cause a death and there has to be some other factor – evasive driving, high speed, some performance issue that shows how the Drunkedness leads to the Death. He says, there’s no evidence presented of impaired performance, but there’s a lot of mitigating factors – it was dark, it had rained, the cyclist was riding a girl’s bike, the reflectors had been removed, the cyclist wasn’t wearing a helmet. (in other words, the driver would have hit this cyclist if he were sober). The defense asks the court to remove the charge of “homicide by vehicle, DUI related”.
The prosecutor says, the evidence of impaired performance is that Banks is dead and the accused’s statements; further, the driver was operating on an approved bike route and there were signs about ShareTheRoad. Finally, it was Halloween and the driver should have been operating with additional caution because there could be people out trick-or-treating.
I was impressed at the hearing. Both the defense, prosecutor, and judge were intimately familiar with all the little details of the case. It was a dispassionate, professional slicing up of the events of the night. It was terrible for the family to sit through, but I thought both the prosecutor and the defense presented reasonable questions and the judge will announce their decisions in writing in a few weeks.
Trial is scheduled for Aug.20. I thought the proceedings were fair and thorough. I left a bit impressed at how the hearing went.
Wait… it’s against state law to use helmet use or lack thereof as a reason for anything in either criminal or civil court in PA.
edit: meh… never mind. It can’t be used in any civil action. And it can’t be used as a reason for contributory negligence. So I guess it can be used here.
I can’t help with that. Sorry, it’s just what the defense said. I mean, they even raised the issue that he was riding “a girl’s bike”. I was hoping somebody would say “objection your honor, that’s a step-through” but no.
I was left with the personal question: if I were killed in a night-time bike-car crash, could my survivors prove that my bike has reflectors? I think I’m taking a picture of my bike and giving them a photo, just in case. This is strictly my personal notion. The defense did cite as a mitigating factor that the reflectors had been taken off the bike. FWIW.
Thanks for the writeup, Vannevar!
“Girl’s bike” – wow! The defense is reaching for anything.
Yes, thanks Vannevar! It’s nice to know how things are advancing in this case.
As for your almost throw away comment at the end of your report about photographing your bike, I think it is an awesome idea.
I think those folks who have invested in high performance lights should also have a photo of them on their bikes, with the lights on. I’ve seen lights that have alerted me to the presence of a cyclist while we were still a quarter mile or more apart. It would be hard to prove that the lights were ON at a given point in time, say when an accident occurred, but the “proof” of investment in personal safety and visibility could be persuasive, perhaps.
Some things I’m taking from this:
1. The law, as written, is just incredibly kind to motorists who kill. You’d think that killing a kid while drunk would be enough to put you in jail, but you also need to have done something else, like speeding. Amazing. Same thing with the Cleveland driver who killed some cyclists recently. It’s not enough to be inattentive and to kill as a result.
We need a law which says, at a minimum, that someone who, as a result of failure to exercise due care, kills or seriously injures a pedestrian or cyclist, loses their license to drive until they pass a driver retraining course and demonstrates their competence. And we need to check whether drivers, in fact, are licensed and not DUI via checkpoints.
2. Pennsylvania’s system of balkanized mini-governments is not only an expensive pain in the ass and repository of corruption, but also results in people not receiving justice.
Jon, in aviation there’s a policy: if a plane crashes while approaching for a landing and there’s a fatality, we suspend using the runway and instrument procedures until they’re checked and certified to be usable.
It’s a reasonable idea. Say, if you’re driving and you’re in a crash and a fatality occurs, your driver’s license is suspended until you can be recertified (take the driver’s written and practical again). If it’s a chain-reaction accident involving a fatality, all the drivers need to recertify.
To me (but I come out of a community that accepts this) it’s a reasonable worthwhile precaution. Being suspended and recertified is no statement of blame or absolution; it’s just prudent to recertify because somebody got killed.
It would have a lot of positive effects.
@V. First, thanks for the update. It’s nice to know that there seems to be confidence in the system, at least for now.
Also, I like the aviation model that all incidents are reviewed to determine the root-cause of the crash too. Imagine if all fatal car crashes were examined to the degree that air crashes were and steps taken to eliminate the cause in the future. There is no chance that these check-your-email-while-driving & other infotainment systems would be showing up in new cars (voice activated or not). Hell, there probably wouldn’t even be a radio. And why exactly do we allow cars to even be capable of exceed the highest speed limit in the country and what this means philosophically.
To me (but I come out of a community that accepts this) it’s a reasonable worthwhile precaution. Being suspended and recertified is no statement of blame or absolution; it’s just prudent to recertify because somebody got killed.
I think it’s a great idea to have licenses taken away from unsafe drivers without it being a criminal matter. No one wants to send anyone to jail for being inattentive and incompetent, but dammit, they shouldn’t be driving.
Except recertification doesn’t keep distracted or inattentive drivers from recertifying. Distracted/inattentive driving _is_ a crime in many states and it should be here.
There are lots of mistakes that can land you in jail. The rationale is that you should take precautions against those mistakes because they can cause injury or death. How is this any different?
I would like a law that focuses on the outcome, regardless of the cause. The problem with existing laws is that they depend on establishing the cause of the crash — was it because of distracted driving, or recklessness, etc. It is very hard to establish these things especially when there are no witnesses. I would like the law to provide for some sanction regardless of the reason.
I’m not arguing against cause-based laws; they should stand and be enforced where possible. But even when a motorist didn’t commit some prohibited act, they should face consequences when they failed to exercise due care. It’s a standard that we don’t have in place right now.
The frustrating thing is that we already have many of these laws but we fail to use them. If nothing else, there is no question that the driver failed to maintain an assured clear distance for example.
@xuth There are lots of mistakes that can land you in jail. The rationale is that you should take precautions against those mistakes because they can cause injury or death. How is this any different?
I’m not sure what you mean by “mistake” here. “It was a mistake to rob that bank in the first place.”
Drivers are extremely hesitant to convict for anything that could be viewed as an “honest mistake.” There should be a non-criminal mechanism to keep unsafe drivers off the road.
I’m referring to the various types of negligent homicide laws. There are some states where killing a construction worker with your car will land you in jail but I know of none where killing a cyclist will do the same.
IANAL, but as I understand it, negligence means something specific in the law. You have to be intentionally disobeying a law. You can’t just unintentionally be doing something illegal. So, for example, failing to maintain an assured clear distance is not negligence (unless you can get the motorist to say something like “I decided to buzz the cyclist.”) That is simply failure to exercise due care. That’s why we need a new law, to cover those situations where a motorist is not being negligent, but their actions resulted in a death or serious injury.
OK, looking up the definition, I see there is an overlap between what I’m calling failure to exercise due care and simple negligence. What I am saying is that careless driving that results in a pedestrian or cyclist getting killed or seriously injured should result in a license suspension, required retraining, and retest. The standard for charging someone with negligent homicide in a crash is higher; it requires gross negligence:
Note that mere negligent (careless) driving will not result in a charge of vehicular manslaughter. For example, suppose a driver causes a fatal accident while going five miles over the highway’s posted speed limit on a clear day. Even if analysis shows that speed was a factor in the accident, this excess speed is unlikely by itself to support a charge of vehicular manslaughter, though it could be the basis for a misdemeanor.
Absent from this discussion is that the road is wrong. Driver culpability in not changing lanes to avoid a vehicle moving slower is one thing, but if the LEGAL speed on that road is 15 to 20 mph too fast already, then traveling 56 in a posted-55 zone makes that culpability much, much higher, in my estimation.
Sure and certainly, the driver is culpable. But let’s not stop there.
The damned road should be posted 25 with a full sized bike lane on both sides. Or this is going to happen again.
> “Absent from this discussion is that the road is wrong.”
“[Ground] transportation is one of the few professions where nearly 33,000 people can lose their lives in one year and no one in a position of responsibility is in danger of losing his or her job.” — Janette Sadik Khan, Streetfight
There is one paper copy of Streetfight in the Carnegie Library system, and the waiting list for it is now eight people long.
Yup. I don’t buy books new very often, but this one I actually pre-ordered from East End Book Exchange on Liberty.
(FWIW, EEBX is very supportive of the local bike and ‘active-transportation’ community, including hosting the monthly meeting of Bloomfield Livable Streets…)
Just a heads-up; there will be another ride, to recognize the resolution to this tragedy, and to memorialize Taylor Lee Banks. It is planned for October 8, at 10:00 am. I’ll have more details and create a Facebook event soon.
I posted the ride on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/1847236778837764/
The purpose of the ride is to memorialize Taylor, recognize that his killer has (finally) been convicted, and give what comfort we can to the family. We will follow the original route of the Ghost Bike ride, down Route 51 from Monaca. (The route is here: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/16491125.) As in the past, we’ll be escorted by motorcyclists.
Please consider attending, and share. These rides bring us together, help us recognize what has been lost, and bring attention to the shameful neglect of cycling on critical routes.
You must be logged in to reply to this topic. Click here to login.