Graduate Student Injured: Struck by Car While Crossing 15th Street

A 29-year-old Rensselaer graduate student, was struck by an oncoming car while illegally crossing 15th Street from the Quad Residence Hall to the Rensselaer Union. Sanyukta, who has no surname, was hospitalized with serious injuries, but has since been released.

The incident, which happened at around 7 pm on Wednesday, November 14, left her  “lying on the ground convulsing,” according to Rafael Martinez ’11, who witnessed it from a lounge window in the Quad.

The morning following the incident, Dean of Students Mark Smith told The Poly she was “in good condition given the circumstances.”

On Monday, after leaving the hospital, Sanyukta said, “The swelling is still there in my right leg and I am not able to walk because of an ACL ligament fracture,” but is feeling much better since the accident.

No charges will be filed against the 37-year-old driver, Claudiu Hapenciuc, who is also a graduate student at RPI. According to Captain John Cooney with the Troy Police Department, the investigation was conducted at the scene and it was found that Sanyukta had crossed the street outside of the crosswalk—about halfway between there and the pedestrian footbridge.

Sanyukta was cited for failing to cross at a crosswalk, which is more commonly referred to as jaywalking. Cooney added that because there are many prominent crosswalks on the RPI campus, there is no reason to not use them.

“One needs to be careful crossing that street, especially when not crossing at a crosswalk,” Smith said, adding, “We have to look and be careful just as we were taught when we were three.”

Troy Police and Fire Departments and Public Safety responded to the accident, closing off the street. When they first arrived at the scene, Martinez noted, people ignored the situation. “Cars were just driving around the accident, blocking access to the ambulance.”

Sanyukta was taken to Albany Medical Center by TFD. Police forced the driver to move to the front passenger seat of his four-door 1990 blue Pontiac sedan and then confiscated his keys, several bystanders reported seeing. The windshield had a large crack on the front of it from the impact. Notebooks and a shoe were also found in the road and were believed to belong to Sanyukta.

The Poly has also learned that Hapenciuc was responsible for hitting several parked cars in the parking lot outside of Public Safety on Wednesday, October 31. Witnesses reported seeing the same sedan strike several cars. However, during a separate investigation by TPD, it was determined that none of the vehicles hit were damaged; Hapenciuc’s license plate did become detached from his car, though. After hitting the cars, witnesses reported that Hapenciuc left the scene. There were no charges filed. Hapenciuc was not able to be reached for comment.

Director of Public Safety Jerry Matthews recognizes that 15th Street can be dangerous when dark, but noted that Sanyukta crossed outside of the crosswalk and there isn’t much that can be done to protect students when that is the case.

Matthews stated there are intentions to improve the lighting at the crosswalk in the future, then added that he hopes to eliminate parking spaces near the crosswalk to make it easier for approaching cars to see students.

A version of this article appeared in print on November 28, 2007, on page 1 of The Rensselaer Polytechnic, the university newspaper at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.