OCEAN CITY – Tragedy struck on Tuesday afternoon when a Pennsylvania woman and recent college graduate attempting to cross Coastal Highway on a bicycle was struck and killed by a delivery truck.
Around 1:18 p.m. on Tuesday, Kristen Stormer, 23, of Hollidaysburg, Pa., attempted to cross Coastal Highway from east to west on a bicycle at the busy 33rd Street intersection and made it safely across the northbound lanes before being struck by a Canada Dry delivery truck in the southbound middle lane. Stormer, a recent graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) and reportedly in the resort area for the summer for a photography job, was pronounced dead at the scene.
According to a witness who was driving south on Coastal Highway near the scene of the tragic accident, the victim was wearing an Ipod and did not look left or right before entering the intersection. The witness said he was in the center southbound lane and saw Stormer enter the intersection, causing southbound traffic to brake suddenly before the truck struck the victim.
“She just came rolling through here with her Ipod on just like she was riding down the sidewalk,” the witness said. “She didn’t look left or right. She just came rolling through this intersection and I don’t think she ever even touched her brakes.”
According to police reports, Stormer was in a marked crosswalk, but was crossing against the traffic signal. Although the investigation is ongoing, no charges are pending against the driver.
The witness said it was a miracle the victim was not struck sooner. The always-congested 33rd Street intersection was made even more hectic by the mid-day traffic on what was a cloudy, overcast day in the resort.
Ocean City Police, the Ocean City Fire Department and Emergency Services responded en masse and quickly put up tarps along the sidewalk to keep hundreds of curiosity seekers away from the accident scene. Two southbound lanes on Coastal Highway were closed for about a block in either direction as police directed traffic around the accident scene for hours.
Throughout the afternoon on Tuesday, resort police had not positively identified Stormer as the victim and it wasn’t until Wednesday morning that the information was made public. As the word on the identification quickly spread, Stormer’s tragic passing was met with stunned disbelief on the IUP campus from which she had just graduated with degrees in both journalism and English. IUP Journalism Department chairman and professor Randy Jesick said the effervescent Stormer clearly made her mark on the journalism department and the entire campus during her time at IUP.
“In my 30 years teaching in the IUP journalism department, where I’ve worked with nearly 2,000 students, I’ve never known a student who was more filled with life than Kristen Stormer,” said Jesick on Wednesday. “She was so uplifting to talk with because she had such wonderful enthusiasm for her career and her life.”
Jesick said Stormer’s infectious smile and demeanor made her untimely death so much more difficult to face this week.
“Every time I ever saw her in our classrooms and in my office, she had the broadest and most sincere smile on her face,” he said. “She always impressed me as a hard-working student who really was destined for professional success. Plus, she seemed like a truly, genuinely happy young woman. She was always aglow with life.”
IUP Journalism Associate Professor Michele Papakie echoed the department chairman’s sentiments about Stormer. Papakie said she has only been teaching for about two-and-a-half years and Tuesday’s tragedy marked the first time she had ever lost a student.
“I really had no idea just how close I had gotten to her and my other students, maybe too close, until I heard the news about Kristen,” she said. “It’s just so difficult.”
Papakie said Stormer had graduated with honors from IUP with a degree in journalism and English was her second major. Stormer had recently been on a field trip to New York City with Papakie and about 25 other IUP students and staffers and had her picture taken with newswoman Diane Sawyer.
“I have such fond memories of that trip, and it was a chance to get to know Kristen better outside of the teacher-student context,” said Papakie. “She was a beautiful girl, not just on the outside, but inside as well. She just radiated and always had a positive attitude. We just loved her and this is all so heartbreaking.”
Ocean City police used the tragic situation to remind visitors and residents to be cautious on and around Coastal Highway. Pedestrians are urged to always use designated sidewalks and marked crosswalks, while individuals riding bicycles or scooters are reminded to use the bus lane and observe all traffic laws and signals when crossing the highway. Ironically, even before the accident was cleared on Tuesday, police and firefighters had to reprimand pedestrians and bicyclists dashing across the highway just a few yards from the tragic scene including presumably a father and young son on bicycles.