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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Deadly crash on Rt. 113 echoes throughout ‘14

Although the incident occurred in late 2013, the fallout from the accident when a state police car hit two teenage pedestrians in Berlin, killing one and seriously injuring the other, continued to ripple throughout the community in 2014.
It was Nov. 8 of last year when trooper Nicholas Hager struck Tymeir D. Dennis, 16, and his then 17-year-old brother Tyheim D. Bowen while the pair was crossing Route 113 on foot.
Dennis died from injuries sustained during the collision and Bowen later had to have his leg amputated due to injuries he sustained.
Hager, meanwhile, received no disciplinary action, and returned to work on Nov. 12, 2013.
The mother of the two boys, 36-year-old Tynise Bowen, spoke with the Bayside Gazette about the tragic crash in January, acknowledging the overwhelming support her family has received from friends, family, and the Berlin community during the accident’s aftermath, and said she needed to clear the air on a few key issues.
“People think these kids were three or four years old,” she said. “That accident was not caused by children who did not look both ways before crossing the road, because they were not in the road.”
Bowen ended her shift at the Dollar Tree in West Ocean City and headed home at 2 p.m. on Nov. 8. Tymeir came over at 5 p.m. to play video games with his brother, whose 18th birthday was just four days away.
That evening Bowen left with her daughter, 9-year-old Trinity, to go grocery shopping at the local Food Lion. Just after dusk, while making their way home, Tynise spotted her sons walking along Bay Street towards her, past the Uncle Willie’s store parking lot.
She said she remembered watching the brothers look both ways, exchange glances, and cross the grassy lot and walked towards the median. No cars appeared to be coming in either direction.
As the brothers approached the median opposite of the guardrail where Bowen was waiting in the left lane for the light to turn green, she asked, “Where you two think you’re going?”
Bowen said she saw a large truck headed north in the right lane passing behind the brothers as they reached the median. Seconds later, Tynise remembered hearing a loud “smack” sound followed by the soft squeal braking tires make when scraping against a grass or a road surface.
Bowen remembers Trinity jumping out of the car from the passenger’s side and racing towards her brother. Bowen ordered her back in the car, and then ran to Tyheim, who was writhing on the ground with massive abdominal injuries, both of his legs apparently destroyed by the accident.
According to Bowen, Tyheim looked up at her and choked out, “Mom, I don’t think I’m going to make it.”
At the time, she did not see Tymeir or the offending vehicle.
A line of cars formed directly behind her. A bedlam of screaming, slamming car doors and gathering onlookers ensued as the drivers and passengers began coming out of their vehicles as well, once they realized what had occurred.
Bowen screamed for her son, frantic.
Moments later, Berlin Police Chief Arnold Downing, having come to the scene upon hearing the dispatch call, informed Bowen that emergency crew had taken Tymeir to Atlantic General Hospital and took Tyheim to Peninsula Regional Medical Center.
When Bowen arrived at AGH, “That’s where they broke the news to me and asked me to identify which one it was,” she said.
Tyheim, meanwhile, was transported to the University of Maryland Medical Center’s Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where his leg was amputated.
Bowen took leave of her $250 a week job to attend to Tyheim during his two-week stay at the Shock Trauma, as well as two subsequent weeks in rehabilitation at the HealthSouth Chesapeake Rehabilitation Hospital in Salisbury.
Medical costs mounted, and Bowen struggled to pay her phone and electric bills. Meanwhile, Bowen continued to look for answers in the aftermath of the crash.
“I want justice for my boys,” she said. “I’ll never be right after this.”
Choking back tears, Bowen began sobbing into a tissue. “If I could have taken that blow I would have done that,” she said.
The following week, the Bayside Gazette spoke with Tymeir’s father, Quentin Dennis.
Dennis said he received a telephone call around 8:05 p.m. on Nov. 8, just after the accident occurred. He headed to AGH to see his son.
“The whole thing was so unreal,” he said.
Dennis said his son looked like he was asleep, “But they were telling me he was not here anymore,” he said.
Dennis, a Worcester County correctional officer, said he contacted the Maryland State Police, seeking a preliminary accident report. “I felt like some were helpful … and some were not,” he said. “[Other officers] kind of brushed me off.”
Following the crash, a group of concerned citizens formed a Pedestrian Safety committee and lobbied to install a crosswalk and other added safety measures to the now infamous intersection. Dennis said the measures were long overdue.
“There are a lot of kids going across there and it needs to be taken care of before something else happens,” he said.
Dennis also expressed his gratitude toward Downing.
“That night he really helped out a lot,” he said. “[He kept] a lot of things under control. I really appreciated that.”
Of the 21-year-old trooper that crashed into his only son, he said, “I know the officer has a lot going on … I don’t know what I would say to him.”
On Feb. 10, the Pedestrian Safety Committee, working with State Highway Administration officials, announced commitments for new safety improvements along Route 113.
The committee included Berlin councilmembers Dean Burrell and Lisa Hall, Berlin Town Administrator Laura Allen, Berlin Police Chief Arnold Downing, and residents Sue Beaman, Roxie Dennis, Patricia Dufendach, Gabe Purnell and Neil Winn.
Dufendach, chair of the committee, said the SHA agreed to lower the speed limit from 55 to 45 miles per hour on 113 roughly between Old Ocean City Boulevard and Germantown Road.
An electronic message sign would alert motorists of the change, and hazard lights were due within 18 months.
The SHA also approved a crosswalk at Bay Street and Rt. 113, the site of the accident, due by mid-March. Nine months later, a pedestrian-initiated “walk” signal, audible alarm and visible countdown timer are due at the site.
The Bayside Gazette learned in September that the investigation had concluded. Although police did not publically release their findings, Dennis read the report and spoke to the Bayside Gazette about his initial impressions.
“There are some things that concern me as far as the investigation with the police officer – the way it was handled and who handled it,” he said. “I felt like it should have been another agency handling the investigation since it involved one of their officers.”
Dennis said he would prefer a third party look into the matter, and admitted he was “not satisfied with the findings.”
“I think it was an uneven job,” he said. “The officer wasn’t even charged with a speeding ticket or anything. I think at least speeding or something – when you have a fatality and another young man that lost a limb, some charges have to come out of that.”
Dennis added he would push for an outside agency to look into the case, and said he intended to set up a meeting with the state’s attorney.
“They’re saying that the findings were just and that and they felt like no wrongdoing was done and no charges were filed,” he said. “I think you kind of have to start there and figure out what’s going on and what avenues you can take.
“Right now the officer knows what happened,” Dennis continued. “He never said anything and he probably can’t say anything because of circumstances, but sometimes you just wonder. You want to sit down and ask him what really happened and find out some things.”
In October, the Bayside Gazette obtained a copy of the full investigation report. Dark clothing, poor visibility and failure to yield to the right of way to vehicles were blamed in what was ruled an accident.
The circumstances of the crash, according to the investigation, involved clear weather conditions. The report found no indication of defects in the road or the traffic signal where the brothers began to cross the highway.
Trooper First Class Charles Gore from the Easton Office Crash Team of the Maryland State Police, who signed the report, wrote that, “Mr. Dennis and Mr. Bowen were observed by their mom, Tynise Bowen, who was stopped at a traffic light on southbound U.S. Route 113 waiting to turn left on Bay Street. Ms. Bowen tried to speak to her sons at which time they proceeded towards Ms. Bowen.”
Prior to crossing the street Gore wrote “Both Ms. Bowen and Mr. Bowen … observed headlights from the approaching car. Mr. Bowen and Mr. Dennis proceeded to cross the travel lanes. Both Mr. Bowen and Mr. Dennis were wearing dark colored clothing that contained little to no reflectivity.”
Hager, traveling north on the highway had recently cleared a traffic stop a mile and a half away at Hayes Landing Road. The state’s speed analysis concluded Hager was traveling at approximately 57 mph.
The trooper said he was “startled by a quick glimpse of something which appeared from nowhere out of the darkness directly in my lane of travel. I immediately attempted to take evasive action by applying my brakes and attempting to steer away from this object in my lane of travel. However; this object contacted my patrol vehicle and it was not until this time I was able to identify this sudden startling flash as being pedestrians.”
Hager notified his barrack of the crash, kicked opened the jammed door, and went to one of the boys, attempting to resuscitate him. Hager said Bowen approached him and asked if her sons would be okay.
“I responded by advising I did not know and she stated this would not have happened if they were paying attention and not talking to her,” Hager said.
According to the report, Bowen was wearing blue jeans and a black jacket. Dennis wore a pair of green camouflage pants and a dark-colored shirt and jacket. The report also said police found 3.27 grams of suspected marijuana inside of the front left pocket of the camouflage pants.
Bowen contended her sons were standing on the grass at the edge of the roadway when the police car struck the two brothers. According to Gore, forensic evidence, including a lack of grass stains or dirt on two pairs of shoes recovered, indicated the boys, “Were not standing on the grass at the time of the crash.”
“I was unable to locate any evidence to indicate that the patrol car traveled into the grass or dirt during the collision event,” Gore said, adding that evidence suggested the front left corner of the car struck Tyheim Bowen, sending him onto “the grass median near the beginning of the guard rail.
“Based on … evidence, I was able to rule out that the vehicle itself did not travel into the grass median during the collision,” Gore wrote.
Instead, Gore said the evidence placed Dennis “as much as 2.3 feet … into lane #1” [the fast lane next to the median].
“Based upon the totality of the investigation I find both Mr. Bowen and Mr. Dennis crossed the roadway knowing that there was a vehicle approaching their location,” Gore wrote. “They were wearing dark colored clothing making themselves very hard to be seen and, of course, reducing the amount of time for anyone to react to them being in the roadway and therefore finding that they failed to yield the right-of-way to vehicles traveling on U.S. Route 113 in accordance with the Maryland Transportation Article 21, Section 503 titled: crossing other than crosswalk.”
A supplemental report said Dianna M. Williams of 320 Bay Street contacted police on June 27 saying she “saw two persons standing in the grass median talking to a person in a minivan” on Nov. 8. She did not, however, see the accident itself.
Williams heard a crash report over a police scanner, ran outside to see if she could help and “saw one person laying near the edge of where the guardrail begins in the grass median but did not see the other person.”
Williams, whose residence is approximately 180 feet from where Tynise Bowen’s minivan was parked during the investigation, said she did not come forward earlier because she “did not want to get involved and that she did not see the crash itself.”
Although the case is closed, some members of the community continued to echo Dennis’ frustration with the findings.
Pedestrian Safety Committee Member Purnell, a member of the NAACP for more than four decades, said people in Berlin “are talking, and people are confused and conflicted about [the investigation.”
“Based on what we see across the country and what’s going on, the reality is when you come up against law enforcement, you accept what they give you and you move on,” he said. “You’ve just got to process it. As a community, we just have to suck it up and keep on going.”
Purnell said he objected to the notion that the police could impartially conduct an investigation into one of their own.
“If it’s inside, it’s going to be biased,” he said. “That’s just plain and simple … That’s the culture of law enforcement.”
Although he plans to continue his work with the committee, Purnell suggested that safety improvements on Route 113 near the area of the crash “have gone as far as we can go.”