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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 1, 2010

Three-vehicle crash leaves one driver dead

By Anne Hayden

A corrections officer was killed on June 26 because the breakdown lane on Interstate 88 wasn’t wide enough to accommodate another driver’s disabled vehicle.

No one has been charged in the fatal accident.

Altamont resident, Rachel Rabbin, 22, was driving on I-88, in the town of Duanesburg, when her 1992 Toyota Celica broke down, according to a release from the State Police, which describes events this way: She was able to pull off onto the right shoulder, but her car was still partially in the right lane, because the shoulder was not wide enough to get her car completely out of the way of traffic. Rabbin declined to comment.

Rabbin was out of her car when, a few minutes later, Jeffrey Horowitz, 31, a corrections officer from Schenectady, struck Rabbin’s car with his 2006 Nissan Sentra. Rabbin was able to jump out of the way, but seconds later, both cars were hit by a 2002 Freightliner tractor trailer that was hauling a 53-foot, 2002 utility trailer, loaded with paper.

The truck, driven by 50-year-old Mohammed Hasan, of the Bronx, jackknifed and came to a full stop after hitting a guide rail.

New York State Police patrols administered CPR to Horowitz, and used an automated external defibrillator, before he was taken to Ellis Hospital by Duanesburg Emergency Services. He was pronounced dead at the hospital. (His obituary is on page x.)

According to Peter Van Keuren, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Transportation, the portion of I-88 where the accident occurred has two driving lanes, and the right-most lane is considered a climbing lane. A climbing lane, he said, is an extra traveling lane on a steep hill, meant for slow traffic, specifically trucks.

According to federal guidelines, the shoulder on a climbing lane must be a minimum of four feet wide, which is exactly the width of the shoulder of the climbing lane on I-88. Van Keuren said the interstate has been configured that way since it was built, in four stages, in the early 1980s.

“A disabled vehicle might not be able to pull over all the way, but the theory is that [the driver of] a slow-moving vehicle going up a hill should be able to see a car on the shoulder in time to move over,” Van Keuren said. The minimum width required for the shoulder in traveling lanes is six feet.

Van Keuren, said whenever there is a fatal accident on a state road, the DOT investigates markings and signs to make sure it was not the road that caused the crash.

“Interstates are intended for speed. People don’t expect to see disabled vehicles or pedestrians on the shoulder of an interstate,” said Van Keuren.

“Rabbin did nothing wrong in this situation. There was nothing else she could have done. Her car died on her, and she tried to get it over to the right side. There just wasn’t enough of a shoulder,” said Maureen Tuffey, a spokeswoman for the New York State Police.

Tuffey said, Tuesday, police can only assume that Horowitz did not see Rabbin’s car until he was too close to it.

No one is being charged with anything related to the crash or the death, according to Tuffey. She said Hasan was issued equipment tickets. He was also charged with making a false deposition and making a false written statement.

“Truckers have strict rules about driving time; they are only supposed to drive a certain amount of hours before they stop for a rest, and they have to keep logs. There was some evidence that negated his statement about his driving time,” Tuffey said. She said she did not think the false statement and the driving time triggered the accident, though it is still under investigation.

The accident resulted in a substantial amount of vehicle fluids on the interstate, and the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation initiated a spill response. The westbound lanes between exits 23 and 24 on I-88 were closed for 14 hours for cleanup and accident reconstruction, according to the press release.

The accident is still under investigation, and witnesses are asked to call the Princetown State Police at 630-1712.

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