Deadly crash in Verona

The Austin-Healy convertible after the crash Sunday / photo: Chris McGrath

4:00 p.m. Monday update:

The family of 59-year-old Ellie Dombrowski says she was a loving mother of ten children, seven of whom were adopted. Monday, family members were on the scene of Ellie's deadly crash in Verona on Stoney Creek Road -- trying to make sense of what happened.

Meanwhile, the Department of Transportation is launching its own investigation into what happened Sunday afternoon, after the black convertible Ellie was driving, along with her friend and passenger Carlton Reames, crashed into two low-lying steel barriers across the bridge.

DOT Regional Director Michael Shamma said those steel beams are sometimes put up on closed bridges, but are not meant to stop cars.

"The key is that you put a lot of other signs on the approach so that motorists can see that," he said.

If you drive on Stoney Creek Road, you'll see three signs within a mile of the bridge warning drivers. The DOT said the signs leading up the to bridge, along with orange cones and a "bridge closed" signs several yards ahead of the bridge, followed protocol and were adequate.

Neighbors in the area said they constantly see cars going faster than the posted speed limit of 30 mph, and say it was only a matter of time before something like this happened. Greg Emery, who lives within a mile of the bridge, says more needs to be done to warn drivers.

"Maybe they need to discover a new way at presenting the signs, I'm not really sure... but obviously this isn't working," he said.

The DOT said it is launching its own investigation into the crash and will look into more ways to warn drivers.

Dombrowski's family said it would like to see the road closed off after the last home on either side of the bridge, making cars stop hundreds of yards before the bridge.

Shamma says the Stoney Creek Road Bridge has been closed since November. It was built back in 1911. He also says the bridge is a candidate for replacement, but it is not high on the DOT's priority list.

Monday morning update:

State Police have now identified the victims of a fatal car accident Sunday afternoon in the Town of Verona.

Police say 59-year-old Ellie Dombrowski of Rock Road in Verona was at the wheel of a 1957 Austin-Healy convertible when it crashed through metal barriers at the closed Stoney Creek Road bridge over the Erie Canal. Dombrowski was pronounced dead at the scene. Her passenger, 68-year-old H. Carlton Reames of Ava, was hospitalized in critical condition at Upstate University Hospital. State Police tell CNY Central that Reames, the registered owner of the vehicle, died from his injuries around 8:15 Monday morning.

Investigators say Dombrowski was traveling north on Stoney Creek Road and failed to stop at a "bridge closed" sign located at the south end of the bridge. She then continued north, striking a steel beam blocking the south entrance of the bridge. Police say the classic sports car continued north striking a guide rail on the west side of the bridge, and then hit a metal beam blocking the north entrance of the bridge. The car still continued north, finally coming to rest on the west shoulder of the road just north of the bridge.

Troopers are still investigating trying to find out just what caused the accident.

Verona is located in Oneida County, approximately 30 miles east of Syracuse.

Sunday evening update:

People who discovered a deadly crash on a closed bridge in Verona say the scene was gruesome.

State Police tell CNY Central the crash happened shortly before 3:00 Sunday afternoon. They say a woman was driving a black convertible on Stoney Creek Road in Verona when the car slammed into a low-lying steel barrier meant to keep traffic off the bridge, which has been closed since November. Investigators say the car then traveled across the bridge before hitting another steel barrier.

Troopers say the female driver died on the scene. The male passenger is seriously hurt and has been taken to University Hospital. Both names are not being released at this time. The crash is still under investigation, but investigators say it's likely the driver was distracted and did not see signs indicating the bridge is closed.

Folks we spoke with just down the road say it was only a matter of time before something like this happened, now that the road is closed to traffic. They say the bridge needs to be fixed and re-opened to traffic. They would also like to see more signs need to be put up to warn drivers.

Original story from Sunday afternoon:

A woman is dead and a man seriously hurt after a single car crash on Stoney Creek Road in Verona.

It happened Sunday afternoon. Police say the female driver was distracted and hit a low-lying metal barrier that runs across a closed bridge.

Names are not being released at this time. The male passenger was taken to Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse.