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State Police still investigating Verona accident along closed bridge

By GARY LIBERATORE

VERONA, N.Y. (WKTV) - New York State Police investigators are still trying to piece together what caused a Verona woman to crash into a steel barrier in front of a closed bridge, killing her and her passenger.

H. Carlton Reames, 68, of Ava died Monday morning, according to officials at Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse. Reames had been transported there following the accident on Stoney Creek Road in the Town of Verona on Sunday that left driver Ellie Dombroski, 59, of Verona, dead at the scene.

According to New York State Police, a 1957 Austin-Healey convertible driven by Dombroski (but owned by Reames) was traveling northbound on Stoney Creek Road and failed to stop for a "bridge closed" sign at the entrance of a bridge that spans over the Erie Canal.

Authorities said the vehicle Dombroski's was driving struck the "bridge closed" sign that was located just south of the bridge and continued northbound, striking a metal beam that was blocking the south entrance of the bridge.

The vehicle went underneath that beam and then continued northbound onto the bridge and struck the guide rail along the west side of the bridge numerous times and then struck another metal beam that was blocking the north entrance of the bridge, State Police said.

The vehicle continued northbound and came to rest against the guide rail on the west shoulder of the roadway north of the bridge.

Family members of Ellie Dombroski came to the bridge on Monday morning to grieve.

Daughter, Jami Mather says her mother had been a hair stylist in Verona for the past 31 years and so many people knew her and loved her.

"I had spoken to her earlier in the day, and she was so excited about being a grandmother, me being pregnant and having a grandbaby that she could be there for," Mather said.

H. Carl Reames was an auto mechanic who live along Delta Lake, and ran B&F Collision in Stanwix. Longtime friend Alan Kotary, of Verona, said that as soon as he heard the news Carl had passed away this morning, he came to the bridge to try and see how this could have possibly happened.

Kotary said his friend was kind to so many people, it's sad he won't be able to do that anymore.

"Carl Reames was a beautiful guy," Kotary said. "He would help anybody at any cost, let them charge their repairs and pay when they can. He was just a great guy."

Residents in the area say that the deadly accident is a tragic example of why more signage is needed to alert people of the closed bridge.

Longtime Verona resident Jerry Zimmerman says something needs to be done to protect people in the future.

"My opinion is that they should close them further back," Zimmerman said. "Not just the bridge is closed, but the road is closed, the furthest point away from the bridge. Because it's too short a notice, people drive right by the signs."

State Department of Transportation spokesperson Tony Ilacqua says the state closed the bridge on November 26, 2010 because of a recent inspection which showed the floor of the bridge was in disrepair. The bridge was on the list of bridges to be replaced if the funding for such project came through.

Ilaqua says the signage is adequate for a closed bridge, but the D.O.T. is doing their own investigation into what happened and are also awaiting the results of the State Police investigation.

Jami Mather says there may be another reason why her mother didn't stop or heed the warnings, other than the signage.

"We think she might have had a stroke, cause' she had one a couple weeks earlier, and we think that Carl, the guy that was with her tried to grab the wheel but it was too late," Mather said.

Autopsies are expected to be completed on both victims on Tuesday.

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