Family produces video, demands new accident investigation

2013-11-23T20:30:00Z 2013-11-24T23:31:10Z Family produces video, demands new accident investigationBy Bill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328 nwitimes.com
November 23, 2013 8:30 pm  • 

HAMMOND | The parents of 13-year-old Joshua Spencer cannot accept the official judgment that he was at fault in the Sept. 1 accident that took his life.

Karen Spencer and Dale Gleason said last week they want police to reopen their son's investigation because they believe they have video from near the accident scene proving it in error.

Police said they weren't told about the family's video until contacted by The Times.

Hammond Lt. Patrick Vicari, traffic division commander, one of the investigators, watched the video last week.

"It changes nothing," he said.

Hammond attorney John Cantrell, who represents the parents, reacted last week, saying, "Are you kidding?"

Hammond Police Chief Brian Miller said last week his department will meet again with the family, but he doesn't foresee any fundamental change that would result in charges against the 83-year-old car driver, Edwina Sorge.

Her son, Robert Sorge, a Hammond attorney, said his mother was very upset over the tragedy because she didn't see Joshua crossing the street until it was too late, but she shouldn't be blamed because the police investigation concluded she wasn't speeding or driving impaired.

A witness listed on the police crash report, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Times a vehicle between Sorge's 2000 Sonata and Joshua's bike probably blocked their view of each other until "a microsecond" before the collision.

"There is nothing she could have done," the witness said.

Joshua's parents have nothing nice to say about the conclusions in a five-page police crash report, particularly about Joshua's "crossing not at intersection."

They insist their son was in or near the crosswalk because he was  street-smart when it came to Hammond's busy thoroughfares.

"He was a really intelligent kid," Gleason said of his son.

"I was always telling him to be careful and look both ways," Karen Spencer added.

But they are brutally reminded every time they pass the intersection, four blocks from their home, where accident reconstruction paint in the center of Calumet Avenue's multiple lanes can still be seen, including traces of where they found Joshua's bike, about 100 feet south of the intersection.

The parents say that is at odds with the video they obtained from Dairy Belle ice cream store showing their son buying a bag of chips and peddling off to cross Calumet Avenue at a spot nearer the crosswalk on the south side of the intersection than the official point of impact.

Parents counting on video, more witnesses

Gleason said he obtained the video by simply asking for it from the business and cannot understand why police didn't have it themselves. "How can they complete their investigation and not go up to that window and even ask them if they had seen anything. He was in a hurry to wrap it."

Cantrell said he hopes the video, which can be viewed at www.nwi.com, will bring forward other witnesses.

Karen Spencer said the accident that took place shortly after noon that Sunday shattered a peaceful Labor Day weekend. "It was just one of those great days we don't normally have," she said.

She said he and his father had finished delivering their Times newspaper route. "He finished an art project, he did chores. We just stood in the kitchen talking and eating cookies," she said. "He asked to go out and get some chips. I told him we had chips here, but he had money and it was burning a hole in his pocket."

She said her son was a shy teen she had recently encouraged to get involved in sports, and he had responded by losing 25 pounds to get in shape. His father said he regularly crossed Calumet, including once earlier that day, to buy snacks.

Karen Spencer said the terror began to rise after Joshua didn't return and a police officer knocked at the door to ask if they had a son by that name. They were directed to hurry to the Community Hospital emergency room where they found him bleeding and attached to a ventilator.

"The staff asked us to keep talking to him. They said, 'Tell him you love him. Tell him you love him.' "

They said as Joshua lay dying, they briefly met Vicari, who was the first to tell them Joshua had crossed into oncoming traffic. Karen Spencer said it was the wrong thing to say, then and now.

Vicari said he is sorry they are displeased with him. He said having to deal with parents of children killed in car accidents are the worst part of his job. "It affected me too," he said. He said the city has received a grant to put police officers near city schools, where car-pedestrian accidents can often occur.

Vicari said he also is sorry the family has questioned the validity of his investigation. He said someone initially suggested the car went up on the sidewalk to hit Joshua.

"We have the debris from where he (Joshua) hit the car. None of which is indicative of it happening in the crosswalk. We have where (Edwina Sorge) was braking. I measured those skid marks. We did the speed calculations. It was under the limit," Vicari said last week

"This is an accident. It's tragic, but let's not put things where they weren't," Vicari said.

The witness, one whom police are now relying, said he told police, "(Joshua) was nowhere near that crosswalk."

The witness, whose car was in the left turn lane at the intersection, said the accident unfolded before him in agonizing fashion.

"Picture yourself in a car southbound at that (171st Street) light with Dairy Belle on the right. (Edwina Sorge) was in the left or center lane. An SUV or a minivan in the lane near the curb. The light turned green, those two cars took off. The elderly lady was slower," he said.

He said the minivan suddenly braked to avoid hitting Joshua. "Now he is in (Sorge's) lane. They hit, he flies over the handlebars and hits his head on the windshield. It was horrible," the witness said, adding the minivan left the scene before police could interview the occupants.

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