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After deadly Elmira bike crash, time to thank the quiet heroes

Let's focus on the local heroes who reacted quickly after Charles Rogers was struck by a drunk driver.

By Jim Reed
Managing partner
Ziff Law Firm, Elmira

The recent fatal bike crash in Elmira revealed the worst of humanity ... and the best of humanity.

On April 9, bicyclist Charles G. Rogers, 68, of Elmira, was struck by a drunk hit-and-run driver in a crosswalk on Grand Central Avenue in Elmira near the Clemens Center Parkway Extension and the north entrance to Eldridge Park. Mr. Rogers died a short time later at Arnot Ogden Medical Center.

The driver of the vehicle, who police said was drunk at the time of the crash, was stopped by Elmira Heights police after fleeing the scene. Police charged Sara Harnas, 40, of Elmira Heights, with two felonies -- first-degree Aggravated Unlicensed Operation, and Leaving the Scene of a Fatal Accident.

It's always easy, in the hours after a fatal crash involving alcohol, to focus only on the driver who is accused of driving drunk and killing another person. Police said Harnas was drunk and without a license when she struck Mr. Rogers, leaving the poor man to die while she sped away, clinging to her crushed windshield.

She might've gotten away with her crimes if it wasn't for a brave hero, Jimmy Melton of Waverly, who witnessed the crash and followed Harnas into Elmira Heights, alerting police where she was and tracking her until police arrived and took her into custody. Harnas tried to evade him, much as she tried to escape responsibility in the crash, but Jimmy knew he was doing the right thing and kept tailing her.

Police said Harnas has had her license suspended six times and she did not own the car she was driving at the time of the crash. A Chemung County grand jury will decide whether Harnas faces additional charges, but for now, she appeared Monday in Elmira City Court and will return at a later date for further proceedings.

That's enough about the driver.

I want to applaud and publicly thank Jimmy Melton, a brave Good Samaritan who was driving home from work and jumped in to help. He saw a car with a crushed windshield and a man lying in the road near a crumpled bicycle and didn't hesitate to make a quick U turn and chase the striking vehicle.

Jimmy had this to say to the local news media:

"I was headed home from work and saw a car coming with the windshield smashed in. She was going off the road. There was a bicycle on one side and a guy lying on the other side of the road. I turned around and chased her. She didn't look like she had a care for what happened, in my opinion. She hit someone and was just going to keep driving. I just felt like I was doing my part. I think anybody, if they see something wrong, they should tell someone or do something about it."

I also want to thank the people who stopped to comfort Mr. Rogers as the emergency responders were on the way; the emergency responders who acted quickly to transport Mr. Rogers to the hospital; and the doctors and nurses who fought to save his life. They're all heroes.

The world needs more people like Jimmy and the emergency responders who are willing to get involved and help without a second thought when unspeakable tragedies occur.

Our law firm sponsors a Veteran of the Game during each home game of the Elmira Pioneers on summer evenings at Dunn Field, and it is our hope to honor Jimmy with a special tribute as a Hero of the Game at a Pioneers game this summer.

In the meantime, to Jimmy and the rest of the people who tried to save Mr. Rogers, we simply say thank you for being our heroes.

Thanks for reading,


Photo in text: Attorney Jim Reed.


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