2 killed in street race

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) – State and city officials plan to work together on improving the safety of Ella Grasso Boulevard, the site of seven fatalities since January.

The most recent deaths occurred early Saturday morning when two people died and three others were critically injured in what police speculate was the result of illegal street racing.

“To have seven accidents and seven fatalities since January, including two accidents that took the lives of young women and babies is unprecedented,” Mayor John DeStefano said Saturday.

He said city police have tried a variety of speed enforcement methods, but are now at the point where the state’s help is needed along the state-owned road.

That help appears on the way.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell on Saturday directed the commissioners of Transportation and Public Safety to begin a review of the highway and report their findings by week’s end. She also offered state police assistance in patrolling the area.

“While it is probably impossible to completely stop abusive drivers from essentially terrorizing innocent law-abiding motorists and pedestrians, there may be tangible ways that the state can work with the city to upgrade road safety, curtail criminal driving and improve public safety overall,” Rell said.

Saturday’s fatal crash, which occurred around 1 a.m., came less than 12 hours after the state House of Representatives approved a bill to toughen the penalties on street racing participants and spectators.

The two people killed in the crash were in a green Honda that was racing another vehicle northbound on Grasso Boulevard, New Haven police Sgt. Raymond Johannes said.

The Honda lost control, striking a southbound white Lexus head-on near the intersection of Derby Avenue, Johannes said. The Lexus was not involved in the racing.

The Honda’s driver was pronounced dead at the scene, and one of his three passengers died at the Hospital of Saint Raphael. The other two passengers remained hospitalized there in serious condition later Saturday.

Television reports said the driver of the Lexus was a 36-year-old father on his way home from work. That person was in serious condition later Saturday at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

No names were released Saturday afternoon, and the investigation was still being conducted.

The legislative proposal to toughen the punishments for street racing was sent Friday to the state Senate.

It would prohibit driving on a public road to race, bet or set a speed record, and would make it illegal to be a participant, time keeper, judge or intentional spectator at such an event.

The first offense would be punishable by fines and up to one year in prison. If approved by the Senate and signed by Rell, it would go into effect on Oct. 1.

Saturday morning’s crash was the third fatal accident recently near that New Haven intersection.

A 21-year-old pregnant woman was killed last week near the same spot, and a 25-year-old college student from Danbury died in a crash there a few days later.

Rell said improvements to the road could include engineering upgrades, stepped-up enforcement and road design changes.

“This is not only tragic,” Rell said of the seven fatalities this year, “it is absolutely intolerable.”

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