Witnesses detail alleged Lake Avenue street race that killed woman

Scene of fatal pedestrian accident on Lake Avenue. Police say drivers admit they were racing. (WHAM photo)

Rochester, N.Y. (WHAM) - Two Rochester men accused of killing a pedestrian while racing each other on Lake Avenue were traveling 70 to 90 miles per hour, according to court documents.

One of the drivers allegedly tried to grab evidence from the scene and flee. The information is contained in court documents obtained by 13WHAM's Jane Flasch after a court appearance for Jose Surrino and Jose Vazquez. Both were charged with manslaughter in the September 3 incident.

Police said Surrino and Vazquez admit to racing each other - "sometimes trading lanes, sometimes taking up both lanes," side-by-side. Officers said it was Surrino who struck and killed pedestrian Laureen Belfante Greczyn as she stepped into the southbound lane.

"I saw her flying in the air," her boyfriend, David Burgess, told police. His statement goes on to say, "I saw her go as high as the light pole. She went so damn high I couldn't see her anymore."

Burgess told police the cars came out of nowhere; there was no time to react.

"They were going so fast you could hear the engines screaming...you could hear the wind coming off the cars," Burgess' statement read. Another witness estimated the speed at 90 miles per hour. Lake Avenue has a posted speed of 35.

Witnesses said even after striking the pedestrian, Surrino was traveling too fast to stop. He crashed into the rear of a Honda driven by Erica Charlone Dowdell.

"I hear people in the background screaming, 'You just killed her.' I was in shock," Dowdell said in an interview from her front yard in Irondequoit. "I didn't understand when it happened because all I remember is him hitting me. I didn't see him hit her."

Dowdell said she saw the victim in the roadway, an image she cannot get out of her mind.

"I can't stop thinking about her," Dowdell said.

13WHAM News has images of the other driver, Jose Vazquez, being detained at the scene. Witness Michael Michewitz said he saw Vazquez try to grab a bumper and license plate that had been ripped from the car then flee.

"(I) grabbed it and told him, 'You're not getting this bumper,'" Michewitz said in a written statement. "He told me...'I wasn't involved in the incident.'" Michewitz says he confiscated the bumper and called 911.

A memorial of flowers balloons and a wooden cross now marks the spot near Yarker Avenue where the victim's body came to rest. It is a startling 170 feet from where she was first struck.

Surino and Vazquez have pleaded not guilty. Other charges may be pending.

David Burgess has been together with Greczyn for 12 years. In his statement, he refers to her as his wife. He says he had a brief conversation with the driver who's now charged with her death.

"I told him, 'You just killed my wife' and he said, 'I got a wife and kids too. I didn't mean to.'"

But Burgess says actions that night suggest otherwise.

"They were side by side. They never even tried to brake," Burgses told police. "I never even got the chance to tell Lauri I loved her."

You can read the full court documents below:

Colin Orr, who lives on Lake Avenue, has run outside his home to help on numerous occasions after hearing serious crashes - including the one over the weekend.

"We hear cars go by at a high speed, motorcyclists in particular, just drive by really fast," said Orr. "Take away a lane. I mean, if there’s a single lane going north and south, they can’t race."

President Jonathan Hardin of the Charlotte Community Association said a Lake Avenue traffic study conducted for the recent roadwork in the area said the average speed for drivers and motorcyclists is 48 to 60 miles an hour. "Individuals need to slow down and pay attention in the area, and also drag racing will not be tolerated," he said.

Hardin said the neighborhood association is planning to meet with Rochester Police and City Council Member Molly Clifford to address the growing traffic concerns on Lake Avenue.

Clifford told 13WHAM she is working with the State Department of Transportation to find ways to make that stretch of Lake Avenue safer.

Monroe County Legislator Cynthia Kaleh said she plans on taking a critical look at how to prevent another tragedy on Lake Avenue.

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