Friday, October 23, 2009

Felled Cyclist Purcell Reported Better--and at Home

Jessica Purcell, the cyclist who had a dramatic crash on Route 9W this past August is apparently out of the hospital and "okay," said Alpine Police today.

Purcell fell on August 1 this year while descending the first hill towards State Line between New Jersey and New York state.

Her crash was dramatic and scary for onlookers, including the driver who described seeing Purcell lying on the ground bleeding profusely and convulsing seconds after she crashed behind his car at the intersection of Route 9W and Exit 4N on the Palisades Interstate Parkway. She was then air-vacked out to the trauma unit at the Westchester Medical Facility and was declared in critical condition for her head injuries.

Photo: Jessica Purcell before her accident Aug. 1, 2009 

Many cyclists in the New York and New Jersey area have been following Purcell's recovery, and up until now there was no word of her condition.

But according to Captain Jerry Beckman of the Alpine Police Dept. whose officers were on the scene after her crash, and who has assisted in the accident investigation by the Bergen County Prosecutor's office, Purcell is "doing well."

Repeat phone calls to Purcell's family have been unanswered.

Photo: Crash scene Aug. 1, 2009. Pictured driver Stephen Siegel waited 3 hours for police to complete investigation at the scene.

Capt. Beckman confirmed that the cause of the highly unusual crash has still not been determined, though he said an interview with Purcell's husband Steve Zebrack is imminent. Zebrack was with Purcell that day, and also crashed and broke his collarbone.

Images of the distraught Zebrack, his arm in a makeshift sling, watching his wife being carried away by helicopter to the Westchester  Medical Facility trauma center that day were seared in the memories of many cyclists who passed by after her crash.  Since then many cyclists have poured out their hearts for Purcell, who they saw as a victim of a sport that can sometimes be very dangerous merely because of the proximity to motor vehicles.

The 29-year-old Purcell has been an elite triathlon competitor, so in discussing her crash, many cyclists say she could not have been inexpert. Any conflict with the motorist, Stephen Spiegel, who had stopped at the light has been ruled out by police up to now.

BBB brought to light a long previous history of crashes at this intersection dating back more than 20 years, and most of those incidents involving automobiles and trucks. Before a light was installed there, after many of the accidents, "no one walked away," said Capt. Beckman in a previous interview with BBB.

Since the 1980's, a light was installed at the intersection, and a left hand turn lane to the Palisades Parkway has been added for waiting vehicles. But no new space was added for cyclists coming down the hill on the right: in fact, whatever shoulder was there, was engineered out.

BBB reported these deficiencies to the New Jersey Department of Transportation after Purcell's crash, accompanied by photos of the narrow space left for cyclists.

That deficiency as well as three others were sent with detailed notes to the NJDOT, including the location near Alpine where Camille Savoy was killed by a 72-year-old Wha S. Kim from Englewood, NJ.; the approximate two mile stretch between Palisade and East Clinton Avenue on Route 9W where the shoulder was engineered out about 4 years ago; and the location where an "illegal" sign stating that "Cyclists must ride single file," was mounted. It is not clear when or with what state funds these deficiencies will be corrected said a spokesperson for the NJDOT.

Photo: Savoy's cut bike clothing on the ground on Nov. 6, 2008 the day he was struck. The shoulder in this northbound location is only partially paved, sending cyclists closer to the fog line.

Wha S. Kim was acquitted in late June of this year of careless driving in late June despite evidence by the prosecutor's office and accident investigation squad showing that Kim had driven more than a foot and a half over the fog line separating the road from the shoulder where Savoy was riding. Kim had an extensive careless driving record which was not entered into evidence at the trial, and a witness who was riding behind her did not contradict her original statement that she did not wander over the white line.

On October 11, we reported that a cyclist crashed north of State Line, near the intersection of Palisades Avenue and Route 9W.

The cyclist was 47 year old Karen Marx, of Leonia, NJ who was traveling north with her boyfriend. She was taken to Nyack Hospital and was in critical condition, according to the Orangetown Police.

Media reports say that Marx has since been moved to the New York Presbyterian-Weill Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan. The reports also alleged that Marx's "front derailleur" malfunctioned "or broke", but some bike experts were confused by the report. "How could a front derailleur cause a crash," asked Jim Skelly owner of the Nyack Bike Shop.

Marx is alive but it is unclear what her condition is.


Anonymous said...

"How could a front derailleur cause a crash,"

Umm... Rider is in big ring and front derailleur cable loses tension/breaks, abruptly throwing chain to small ring/bottom bracket while rider is standing. That scenario could result in a crash.

For a less experienced cyclist, a misadjusted front derailleur throws the chain off shifting either up to big ring or down to small ring and cyclist panics and crashes.

Anonymous said...

Marx is very much alive; making a full recovery