Friday, September 12, 2008

Hit-and-run suspect pleads not guilty

Burlington Free Press
September 12, 2008
By Lauren Ober

A Vergennes man whose license had been suspended pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges stemming from a hit-and-run accident in Burlington that left a local college student badly injured.

Adam Desjardin, 22, was arraigned on one felony count of leaving the scene of an accident and one misdemeanor count of negligent vehicle operation for allegedly hitting and injuring University of Vermont junior Rose Long with his SUV. Desjardin turned himself in to Burlington police Wednesday once he became aware that authorities were looking for him, said Lt. Bill Ward of the Burlington Police Department.

Long, 20, and a friend, James Patterson, were cycling in downtown Burlington on Monday night when Desjardin allegedly struck Long with his vehicle at the intersection of Pearl and North Union streets. Witnesses said Desjardin stepped out of the car briefly and then left the scene.

Long, who is a member of the UVM cycling team, sustained severe facial lacerations, a collapsed lung, a broken wrist and a broken jaw, nose and pallet. She also shattered bones in her forehead and lost a number of teeth in the accident. Her injuries required reconstructive surgery Thursday.

Desjardin was released on his own recognizance on the condition that he will turn in his license plates and car keys to police and have no contact with the victim. He is next scheduled to be in court Oct. 8.

Long, originally from Sutton, is an accomplished road cyclist who captured the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference overall championship this year. Recently, she worked on the race committee for the Burlington Criterium, the hallmark event of the Green Mountain Stage Race. Long, a mechanical engineering major, was selected for an internship in the orthopedics department at Fletcher Allen Health Care just days before the accident.

More than 30 cyclists from around Burlington showed up for Thursday's arraignment. Many said they were there as a show of solidarity for cyclists who have been hit by cars.

"I think it shows that cyclists don't like to be hit by cars," said Tom Dinunzio, a member of the UVM cycling team.

Many people in the courtroom were collegiate cyclists who said community awareness of cyclists on the road is an important issue for them.

"A lot of people don't realize it's their responsibility to avoid anything in front of them -- a pedestrian, a cyclist, a guy in a wheelchair," said Dan Benson, also a member of the UVM cycling team.

According to the Vermont Governor's Highway Safety Program, bicyclists and pedestrians make up 7 percent of traffic fatalities. Of the program's discretionary funds, just 1 percent is allotted to bicycle/pedes- trian safety funding.

Chapin Spencer, executive director of Local Motion, a bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organization, says the amount the state spends on bike/pedestrian education should be at least proportionate to the percentage of fatalities.

This most recent accident should be a signal to lawmakers that something needs to change with regard to road safety, Spencer said.

"There have been three serious bike accidents in the past week. It's about time that the state step up and invest in traffic safety to stop the carnage," Spencer said.

Contact Lauren Ober at 660-1868 or

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