PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A street racer crested a hill at 79 miles per hour then struck and killed a woman and her three young sons as they crossed a Philadelphia boulevard at night, prosecution witnesses testified in court Tuesday.
Samara Banks would have reached the median with her boys in a second or two, but she was instead thrown 210 feet by the force of impact, an accident investigator said.
“If the Audi was going 40 to 60 miles per hour .... Ms. Banks and the children would have made it that 6 feet to the curb. The crash wouldn’t have happened,” Officer Bill Lackman testified.
The July 16 deaths renewed concerns about the design of Roosevelt Boulevard, which divides a city neighborhood and has been the site of frequent pedestrian accidents, many of them fatal. The 12-lane boulevard has four, three-lane roadways divided by pedestrian islands, forcing residents to hop-scotch across the road. Often, like Banks, they attempt to cross mid-block, despite the street’s frequent traffic lights and walk ways.
At times, they must also dodge tricked-out cars driving by street racers.
Lead defendant Khusen Akhmedov, 30, said he saw Banks pushing a stroller as he crested a small ridge seconds before the crash, according to his police statement, which was read aloud at the preliminary hearing. He swerved and even struck a sign as he hit the brakes on his powerful 2012 Audi S4, leaving a trail of skid marks, Lackman said.
Witnesses in two separate cars testified that they saw his silver Audi racing a white Honda from light to light, prompting Iesha Aikens to fear there would be a crash.
Seconds later, she came upon one. Aikens got out and was given an injured baby to hold by a woman on the scene. She also called for help with a phone offered by the Honda driver, 30-year-old Ahmen Hollomon.
Prosecutors had also charged Hollomon with third-degree murder, but Municipal Judge James DeLeon dismissed that charge. The judge found that Hollomon had safely brought his car to a stop after the hill, suggesting he was no longer racing. Lawyer Lonny Fish said his client was preparing to turn off of the boulevard.
Hollomon was nonetheless held for trial on reckless endangerment, DUI and DUI-homicide. Blood tests showed marijuana in his system, although he had passed a field sobriety test.
“My client’s still terribly remorseful,” Fish said afterward. “Even though I believe he has no legal responsibility, there’s certainly a human side (to him).”
Banks’ 5-year-old son escaped serious injury in the crash, while losing his brothers, ages 4, 23 months and 7 months. Members of the extended family filled the courtroom, while Akhmedov had about a dozen people sitting behind him.
Akhmedov had been out on bail at the time in a $3.6 million ambulance fraud case, and had racked up four speeding tickets since 2009 and a charge of driving on a suspended license.
He now faces four counts of third-degree murder. His lawyer, Todd Henry, called the crash a tragic accident.