With his three children in his minivan, along with one of their friends, returning to Elba on Saturday afternoon, Justin Calarco-Smith was being cautious, he recalls. He had already come through a couple of snow drifts on Route 98.
Shortly after passing Batavia Elba Townline Road, he came upon another drift with near whiteout conditions when he noticed a silver SUV ahead of him lose control and start to slide sideways.
He didn't actually see the southbound pickup truck driven by Jeffrey S. Toussaint, 59, of Albion strike the silver SUV because of the poor visibility but he was able to stop in time to avoid being entangled in the accident.
Calarco-Smith is the funeral director at H.E. Turner Funeral Home. He's been to fatal accident scenes before but on Saturday he was one of several passersby who tried to render aid to the victims of the crash. This was a close call involving his own family and he said it took him some time to process what happened.
Despite the efforts of people on the scene to assist Teresa M. Norton, 53, and Thomas M. Norton, 22, a mother and son from Albion, they did not survive the crash and were pronounced dead at the scene by Coroner Karen Lang.
"Upon seeing the SUV and pickup truck on the west shoulder of Route 98, I immediately pulled my van over to the east shoulder (it got stuck in the ditch) and called 9-1-1 to report the accident," Calarco-Smith. "After I hung up with dispatch, I exited my car, and along with three other bystanders who stopped to try to help, I got out to see what I could do to help. A female bystander asked if I had blankets for the victims to keep them warm. I ran back to my van and got a blanket out of our trunk and handed one to her."
The accident was reported at about 1:30 p.m. Winds through Genesee County that day were about 30 mph, two days after a major snowstorm had hit the area. Several sections of Route 98 that afternoon had significant snow drifts on the roadway, including the area where the accident occurred. The state's Department of Transportation is responsible for the maintenance of Route 98 and there was no snow fence erected on the west side of Route 98 where the accident occurred.
Calarco-Smith estimates there was one to two inches of snow covering the roadway at the time of the accident.
Because of Calarco-Smith's job, and as a resident of Elba, he knows many of the first responders who arrived at the accident. He praised his friends for how they conducted themselves at the scene.
"These same friends who were out in the elements constantly checked on my children assuring them all would be fine, while I was away from my vehicle," Calarco-Smith said. "I can't say enough about the professionalism, kindness and caring they demonstrated while on the scene. They are truly the calm in the eye of the storm."
A note about the video: I shot it Sunday afternoon so I make reference to "the accident yesterday." At the time I shot it, I anticipated publishing it Sunday, not Monday. That didn't happen. The video is intended to provide a look at the area of the accident scene and discuss what conditions were like on Saturday.
The farm field west of the location of the double fatal crash on Route 98 in Elba.
The site on Route 98 in Elba of a double fatal crash on Saturday.
Snow fence west of Route 98 a location south of Townline Road.