Thunderbird Crew Chief Struck Crossing Coastal Highway

OCEAN CITY — The only black cloud over the impressive Ocean City Air Show last weekend was another pedestrian-vehicle collision early Tuesday involving a crewmember from the signature U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds team.

For the third time in about two weeks, a pedestrian was struck by a vehicle while attempting to cross Coastal Highway near 54th Street and once again the victim was not in the crosswalk. The latest incident happened at 2:30 a.m. on Tuesday, and while the injuries sustained by the victim are serious, they are not considered life-threatening.

On Wednesday, Ocean City Police confirmed the victim was a crew chief from the Thunderbirds’ ground maintenance crew. The Air Force deferred all inquiries about the incident to the OCPD and spokesman Mike Levy said the unidentified crewmember was still in serious condition as of Wednesday. The Thunderbirds team was scheduled to leave Ocean City for its next appearance on Tuesday.

“As far as we know, his condition hasn’t changed,” he said. “He’s still in critical condition.”

The victim, a 32-year-old man from North Las Vegas, was attempting to cross Coastal Highway from west to east and was not in a crosswalk at the time of the collision. The vehicle attempted to swerve to avoid striking the pedestrian, but the victim was struck by the vehicle’s driver side front quarter panel.

When officers arrived on the scene, a witness of the collision was performing CPR on the pedestrian. The victim was transported by Ocean City Emergency Services to PRMC in Salisbury for treatment for serious injuries. No charges have been filed against the driver or the pedestrian, although the investigation is ongoing.

The incident was the third pedestrian-vehicle collision in 15 days and the second in nearly the same area of Coastal Highway and 54th Street.

On May 28, a 22-year-old Cooksville, Md. man was struck and killed by a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed in the northbound bus lane on Coastal Highway at 54th Street. In that incident, the driver, Diogo Facchini, 30, of Lorton, Va. briefly fled the scene and continued to travel north before turning east onto 55th Street.

Witnesses at the scene followed the suspect’s vehicle until police arrived and apprehended Facchini, who has been charged with homicide by motor vehicle, leaving the scene of a fatal collision, driving while intoxicated and impaired and numerous other traffic violations.

Then, around 5:45 p.m. last Tuesday, police and paramedics responded to a reported vehicle accident involving a pedestrian in the area of 21st Street and Coastal Highway. The investigation revealed a group of friends were attempting to cross the highway in the area of 21st Street from east to west to catch a southbound bus. Three of the four crossed against the “don’t walk” signal to the median, then began to run across the southbound lanes of the highway, still crossing against the “don’t walk” signal.

One of the three, an unidentified 15-year-old girl from Allegany County was struck by a vehicle in the far right southbound lane adjacent to the bus lane. She later died.

The Ocean City Police Department is again reminding citizens to use marked crosswalks while crossing the street. Pedestrians are warned not to take unnecessary risks by crossing busy streets against traffic lights. In addition, pedestrians are encouraged to make eye contact with drivers and continue to watch for traffic the entire time they are in a crosswalk.

For their part, motorists are urged to be vigilant while driving, keeping constantly aware of pedestrians, bicycles, mopeds and scooters.