‘Like a bomb went off’: Fatal stolen car crash in Rochester leaves neighbors, police shaken


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — “It was just like a bomb went off in the neighborhood,” said Bruce Register, a resident who lives across the street from Sunday afternoon’s fatal motor vehicle crash involving a stolen van.

The accident started on Jefferson Avenue, where police say an officer spotted four suspects in a van that was reported stolen a week earlier.

Before the officer had a chance to pursue, the van allegedly sped away at an extremely high rate of speed. The van ended up on Seward St, crashing into another car going Southbound. Police say one of the victims was pronounced dead on the scene, the other in the hospital fighting for his life.

Register was sitting in his home with his seven-year-old son, about to watch football when it happened. He describes it as a loud bang.

He quickly ran out the door.

“On my way out the door I see a police officer pulling up behind the SUV, and of course from there it was just carnage all over the place,” he said.

He ran up to the victim’s car where two passengers were unconscious, and for a moment thought of trying to get them out.

“I came back and told the officer, I said you need to call the ambulance they really hurt down,” he said. “There was a big cloud of smoke I didn’t know if the car was going to catch on fire or anything like that.”

Captain Frank Umbrino with Rochester Police Major Crimes Unit says this was one of the worst accidents he’s seen in a long time.

“The impact was so severe, that the engine of the victim’s vehicle actually came out of the car so it was very sad to see,” Umbrino said.

Umbrino says one of his biggest frustrations is that three of the four suspects driving the stolen van were released from jail a month ago, on pending charges ranging from felony drugs, to stolen vehicles.

Police have been expressing concern for bail reform for months.

Umbrino saying he’s not entirely against it, there just needs to be a middle ground. 

“There are certainly aspects of bail reform that we would support, and we would encourage but they went too far,” he said. “I am the one and my investigators are the ones who has to go talk to families of those who got killed.”

Captain Umbrino says crime is up significantly this year; from homicides to car thefts.

“Average in Rochester for motor vehicle thefts is 476 for a five-year average, last year alone there was 593, this year to date we’re at about 725 motor vehicle thefts,” he said.

Register says similar incidents have happened on this street in the past, but nothing taking a life. “Last summer a car came this way, right up into my house, almost hit my gas line almost blew my house up.”

Register says the whole incident on Sunday was traumatizing to watch, especially with a young child inside. “He’s peeking out the window, of course, I’ve owned my home for 18 years I’m ready to move, last couple years there’s been so many incidents on this corner.”

Police say the other passenger in the victim’s car is still in critical condition and fighting for his life as of Monday evening. The four suspects have been released from the hospital as of Monday evening.

On Monday News 8 also asked local senator and proponent of bail reform Jeremy Cooney for his take on this investigation. His team says they’re looking into it and did not comment further.

Anyone with any information on this investigation is asked to call 911.

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