School Official drives away from accident scene after collision with a cyclist
Westerly High School's Dean of students is being charged with one count of leaving the scene of an accident on May 27 after the police reported that he struck a bicyclist close to the intersection of Winnapaug Road and Airport Road before leaving his spouse at the crime scene and driving away.
Westerly police confirmed the charges against 53-year-old Christopher Luppe, who resides at 13 Bridgette Lane. Mr. Luppe was charged on Saturday night with failure to stop at an accident scene, resulting in damages to person or property. The accused was later released pending an appearance at a date yet to be announced for formal indictment in the Fourth Division District Court.
Westerly Police Chief, Shawn Lacey stated the charge was a result of circumstances surrounding the accident investigation. According to the police report, an unidentified 57-year-old local man was on his bicycle driving home around 9:45 p.m. after work. He had taken a turn from Watch Hill Road onto Winnapaug Road and was riding around the curve near Airport Road when the accident occurred. The police further said that a 2014 Toyota RAV4 driven by the accused was heading in the same direction and preparing to turn left onto Airport Road when the front passenger side of the accused's vehicle struck the bicyclist. The unidentified bicyclist was subsequently thrown off his bike.
The victim did not suffer life-threatening injuries, the police stated. He was, however, ferried to the Rhode Island Hospital as he had sustained an injury to his jaw. No injuries were reported to Mr. Luppe or the passengers.
The police said an investigation at the crash site concluded that Mr. Luppe left his wife at the scene and had driven home with the couple's two kids. Police officers then followed to the accused's home after learning this from the wife, but he was not there. Chief Lacey said one of the officers called Mr. Luppe asking him of his whereabouts and he then agreed to come to the station and give his statement. Mr. Luppe was charged as a result, Chief Lacey said.
Westerly School officials said they had been made aware of the incident but could not comment about the matter further, until instructed to do so. Superintendent of Schools Mark Garceau wrote that while they were aware of the accident, the matter was still with the police and he couldn't comment further.
The concerns of bicyclists
Research has shown that despite the implementation of special road provisions being accorded to bicyclists, there is still a nationwide general lack of awareness and empathy with regards to the operation, purpose, and regulations surrounding the different types of provision. Also, approximately 20% of bicycle riders have experienced a traumatic event and 5% required medical attention within their first year of using a bicycle either for transport or exercise purposes. Despite these shocking statistics, researchers strongly believe that nationwide estimates of hospitalizations forbicycle-related accidents and injuries may be under-reported. Not all crashes are reported or recorded and this leads to a limitation in the information gathered.