Could a stalled bill have stopped deadly Hingham Apple Store crash?
From the parking lot of the Derby Street Shops plaza in Hingham, in front of the Barnes and Noble bookstore, it is a nearly straight shot to the plate glass windows that form the front of the Apple Store.
That is the path that prosecutors say a 53-year-old driver took as he accelerated through the parking lot Monday morning before his SUV slammed into the stores facade. There were no protective barriers on the sidewalk that may have stopped the more than two-ton Toyota 4Runner in its tracks.
Many stores are similarly unshielded from cars that might leave the roadway or parking lot on a path through their front walls. For years, some advocates and state legislators have sought to change that, hoping to require some businesses to install physical barriers in front of their storefronts. In Massachusetts, their statewide efforts have not passed.
In each legislative term since 2013, Carolyn Dykema, a Holliston state representative who left the State Legislature in January, filed a bill that would mandate that barriers be placed between certain parking spaces and retail businesses. Each of her five tries died before reaching a floor vote.
When you start paying attention, its really quite shocking the number of crashes and the frequency of them, Dykema said when reached by phone on Tuesday.
The damaged SUV that crashed into an Apple store is removed from the site of the crash on a flatbed tow truck, Monday, Nov. 21, 2022, in Hingham, Mass. One person was killed and 20 others were injured Monday when the SUV crashed into the store, authorities said. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)AP
Relevant data is tracked by the Storefront Safety Council, a national advocacy group launched about a decade ago with of goal of reducing the number of vehicle-into-building crashes.
Since 2014, the organization says it has identified more than 25,000 examples of cars colliding with public buildings, transit stops and other public areas. In mostly preventable accidents, thousands have died, and many more have been injured, the organization said.
One notable incident occurred in Chicopee in 2010. On the morning of Nov. 28, city residents Kimmy and Albert Dubuque were shopping for Christmas gifts when they stopped for a coffee at a Cumberland Farms located on the corner of a four-way intersection.
As Kimmy Dubuque entered the convenience store, the driver of a Ford Explorer pulled his SUV to a stop across the intersection. Then his car began to accelerate.
By the time it came to the front of the Cumberland Farms, where Kimmy Dubuque was entering in search of her coffee, the SUV was traveling nearly 60 miles per hour, according to court records. There were no barriers between the parking lot and the storefront. Kimmy Dubuque, 43 and the mother of a teenager, was killed as the SUV rammed the store. A Cumberland Farms employee was injured but survived. Investigators would later find that the driver had a stroke at the wheel. He was not charged in connection with the crash.
A vehicle is pulled from the Cumberland Farms store on Grove Street in Chicopee following a crash, Nov. 28, 2010. Investigators said the driver suffered a stroke at the wheel and hit the store, killing a woman. (Greg Saulmon/The Republican).
Several years later, Albert Dubuque brought a wrongful death lawsuit against Cumberland Farms, claiming the company had negligently failed to protect its shoppers. As evidence, his attorneys submitted a record of nearly 500 similar collisions at Cumberland Farms locations over a decade-long span. A Hampden Superior Court jury awarded Dubuque more than $32,000,000 in damages, a payout later reduced by a judge to $20,000,000. In 2018, the Massachusetts Appellate Court upheld the ruling.
Every time I hear of one of these situations its like, oh another, Dykema said.
They happen frequently, theyre dangerous and theyre so easily preventable, she added.
The latest example came on Monday. According to the Plymouth County District Attorneys Office, Hingham resident Bradley Rein was at the wheel of the SUV that punched through the front glass wall of the Apple Store, killing a New Jersey man working on construction in front of the store, and injuring 20 others.
Rein has pleaded not guilty to a charge of reckless motor vehicle homicide. On Tuesday, in Hingham District Court, prosecutors said he told police his foot became stuck on the gas pedal as he drove through the parking lot. Rein tried to brake, he told officers, but was unable to do so. In an interview at the Hingham Police Department after the crash, he also said that he had no medical concerns, that the car had no mechanical issues and that he had not consumed any alcohol or drugs earlier Monday. A voluntary breathalyzer test he took at the police station showed a reading of 0.00%, prosecutors said.
Emergency workers aid injured shoppers after an SUV drove into an Apple store, Monday, Nov. 21, 2022, in Hingham, Mass. Several people were injured in the incident, according to authorities. (Greg Derr/The Patriot Ledger via AP)AP
Dykemas most recent bill which was sent to a House committee in March of 2021, where it remains would have required new construction projects to include safety barriers placed between parking spaces on one side and sidewalks and buildings on the other.
The bill said the barrier could be a low retaining wall, a landscape planter, a bollard (a roughly thigh- or hip-high vertical pillar) or other design as long as it could stop a moving car erroneously leaving the parking lot or roadway.
A woman is tearful while standing behind police tape at a scene where an SUV drove into an Apple store, Monday, Nov. 21, 2022, in the Derby Street Shops, in Hingham, Mass. One person was killed and multiple others were injured Monday when the SUV crashed into the store, authorities said. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)AP
Joe Regan, of Hopkinton, was incensed as he watched local news coverage of the crash on Monday. He was the one who first raised the issue with Dykema nearly a decade ago, and he was pleased with the attention she gave the issue. He said they tried in repeated legislative sessions, with the help of other legislators, to raise awareness and pass a bill mandating that protective barriers be erected between certain parking spaces and stores.
Regan had no initial connection to the issue. He runs a tree removal and treatment service.
But at some point in life, he said by phone Wednesday morning, everyone sees something where they take up the mantle and see what can be done. This was his project.
In my heart, I thought it was a fairly important one, he said. When Dykema left the legislature, he felt he had lost his connection to the state government. On Wednesday, Regan was disheartened. But he wondered if the Hingham crash would revive the issue.
These sorts of crash deaths are singularly preventable, he said. This is very simple. It doesnt require rocket science. I wouldnt be there if it did.