GRAND ISLAND — State Police are investigating a wrong-way crash caused by an elderly Kenmore man that killed three people early Monday on the Grand Island section of I-190.
Officials report that 87-year-old Richard Hildebrand of West Hazeltine Avenue was traveling north in the southbound lane of the thruway when he crashed into another vehicle head on, killing three Michigan residents —Shofiul Alom, 20; Nazim Khan, 21; and Rezwan Chowdhury, 21.
Hildebrand and the other driver, Burhanur B. Rahman, were transported to Erie County Medical Center and were listed in critical condition Monday afternoon.
The accident occurred between the Whitehaven and Beaver Park exits — an astonishing eight miles from where Hildebarnd had first been seen driving the wrong way that included a trip over the narrow southbound Grand Island bridge.
According to State Trooper Leonard Genovese, Hildebrand was first seen near where the Scajaquada Expressway meets the I-190. Traffic cameras and eyewitness accounts place him there about 12:40 a.m.
“We believe Hildebrand was on the 190 by mile marker 8, and traveled to mile marker 15.9, where the crash occurred,” Genovese said. “He traveled at least 8 miles going the wrong way and went over the Grand Island Bridge.”
After a witness called 911 to report a vehicle traveling the wrong way, State Police pursued the car from their barrack in Cheektowaga, entering the I-190 from the I-90. The patrol car did not catch up to Hildebrand before the accident, and arrived on the scene shortly after it occurred.
“We are still working on why Hildebrand was going the wrong way,” Genovese said. “The assumption is that he was elderly and confused, and that’s what caused him to go the wrong way — he was not arrested for DWI.”
Genovese also said that State Police do not know where Hildebrand was coming from or headed to because they were not able to interview him due to the injuries he sustained.
Hildebrand was traveling alone Sunday morning and has lived on West Hazeltine for years. Nieghbors described him as a friendly individual.
“He is such a nice gentleman,” Janet Dalimonte, Hildebrand’s next-door neighbor, said. “It’s a terrible thing, and we really hope he is going to be OK.”
The three deceased passengers and Rahman are from Hamtramck, Mich. — which is in the Detriot metropolitan area, and were traveling in a Toyota Camry. Hildebrand was driving a Kia Sorento.