SCOTIA & GLENVILLE -- Members of the local senior center and the town were in mourning Thursday, a day after Wednesday night's Scotia-Glenville Memorial Parade crash that killed a 69-year-old senior center participant.
The woman was killed when a Glenville Senior Center van struck her, pinning her between two vehicles, as they waited to join the parade. Both the driver, 75, and the victim were active in the senior center and part of the center's contingent at the parade.
"This is a tragedy for us and for the family of the Glenville Senior Citizens," Glenville Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle said Thursday morning.
"It's devastating. We're all having a hard time with it," Koetzle said. Grief counseling was offered Thursday at the center, he said.
The crash happened on Hawk Street in Scotia as the senior center's contingent waited to join the parade route, police said late Wednesday.
The Glenville Senior Center van was following the marchers on Hawk Street when it "moved forward quickly," police said in a news release. The van then struck the victim, pushing her into the rear of an assisted living facility bus ahead of them, pinning her, police said.
Several people in the area ran to her aid and she was separated from the vehicles. A nurse and members of the Thomas Corners Fire Department nearby responded, treated her and performed CPR until Scotia Fire Department paramedics arrived, police said. She was taken to Ellis Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Police had yet to identify the woman or the driver as of Thursday evening.
Participants of the 91-year-old parade stage on multiple side streets, including Hawk, before they enter the main Route 5/Mohawk Avenue parade route, parade organizer Kris Kastberg, the former Scotia mayor, said Thursday. Kastberg said he expects there will be a review of parade practices as a result of the crash.
Little remained at the crash scene late Thursday morning, except a thick tire gash in the soil off the street.
Investigators remained on scene until about midnight, neighbors said. State police are assisting village police with the investigation.
Candy Fiet was preparing dinner at her home at 2 Hawk St., across from the crash site, when the accident happened.
She walked over to the window to glance at the queue of parade-goers just afterward.
"People were on her immediately," Fiet said. "There were people to help her right away."
Another resident of Hawk Street, who declined to give her name, said most of the other members of the tightly-knit neighborhood had left to watch the parade and did not witness the crash.
"It's a sad note on this whole thing," the woman said. "It just leaves you with a sick feeling."
Among the other parade participants in the area at the time were middle school members of the Schalmont marching band.
Schalmont Middle School Principal Scott Ziomek put out a letter to parents later Wednesday night noting that some members of the band had witnessed the accident.
The band was right behind the vehicle that struck the woman, a spokesman said Thursday.
"While at no point were our students in danger, we understand that seeing such an event can be alarming and we encourage you to speak with your children if they have any questions or concerns regarding the accident," Ziomek's letter reads. "The district will also have counselors available for students [Thursday] if they're needed."
At the time of the accident, as well as at the time the letter was sent out, the severity of the woman's injuries wasn't known, Schalmont spokesman William DeVoe said.
The middle school convened a building-level response team first thing Thursday morning to support students or adults if they needed support.
Representatives at the senior center Thursday referred comment to Koetzle.
The nature and extent of what happened hadn't been immediately clear to other parade participants, even after a planned Memorial Day service had been held at Collins Park, officials said. The parade started at 6:15 p.m.
Scotia Mayor Thomas Gifford, who is also a volunteer firefighter, had been in the parade himself and had made it to the reviewing stand when the call for the crash came in.
The best thing at that point, he said, was to keep the parade going, as it wasn't immediately clear how severe the situation was.
"It's a tragedy," Gifford said.
Koetzle said there had been talk about closing the Worden Road senior center, but they ultimately decided to keep it open so that those affected by the tragedy could gather and take advantage of counseling provided. Schenectady County Manager Kathy Rooney reached out immediately after the incident to offer county mental health counseling services, he said.
The county Office of Community activated a crisis response team that includes county employees and other mental health professionals, said county spokesman Joe McQueen. It has arranged for counselors to be at the senior center on days when it is open through at least Wednesday.
"We're definitely there into next week, and after that members of the response team will continue to be available," McQueen said.