By Sheila R. Cherry
BERLIN—Residents and town officials were in unison in expressing frustration and lament over the tragic accident that occurred during the evening of Nov. 8, when two teenage brothers were struck by an unmarked police car at the intersection of Route 113 and Bay Street.
Tymeir Deon’ta Montece Dennis, 16, and his brother Tyheim Bowen, 18, both of Berlin were struck crossing Route 113 by a car driven by Maryland State Police Trooper Nicholas Hager, 21, a one-year veteran assigned to the Berlin Barrack. The brothers were the sons of Quintin Dennis, Jr. and Tynise Bowen, both of Berlin.
Tymeir Dennis died from his injuries at AGH. He was a student at Stephen Decatur High School and the HVAC Program at Worcester Technical High School in Newark, according to an obituary posted by the Lewis N. Watson Funeral Home in Salisbury. He was employed by Atlantic Stand in Ocean City as a cook, it said.
Tymeir’s great aunt Dr. Roxie Dennis, president of the Worcester County Branch of the NAACP, refrained from speaking specifically about the accident during an interview on Nov. 13, but did agree to discuss the immediate aftermath of the accident and the youths involved.
Dennis noted that Tymeir was an enterprising young man who aspired to be a commercial truck driver, like his grandfather and uncle, who each own trucking businesses. She said for the past two summers Tymeir worked at the Atlantic Stand in Ocean City in order to earn enough money to purchase his “dream car,” a Lincoln LS.
Dennis recalled Tymeir’s pride at being able to achieve that accomplishment, which had bolstered him to set a new goal. “I’m going to get my trucking license,” he had told her. The car now sits in Tymeir’s grandmother’s driveway, she said.
According to Dennis, although Tymeir’s older brother Tyheim survived the accident, he remains in critical condition at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center. As a result of the accident, one of Tyheim’s legs had to be amputated and he is at risk for losing the other as well, she said. His pelvis was crushed, and she added, Tyheim had been unconscious and was unaware that his brother had died.
Another heartrending moment for the family, Dennis said, came when Tyheim was told about his injuries and his brother’s death. “He screamed, and screamed, and screamed,” she said. Tyheim had turned 18 three days earlier, Tuesday, Nov. 5.
Dennis said at this point in time, the family needed time to heal. But she wanted the public to know the brothers were good youths with loving parents, who were attentive and caring. “We want the community to come together in prayer,” she said.
Dennis also said she hoped if anything good could come from the tragedy it would be that the town would come together to get a crosswalk at the intersection. “I see a lot of children who walk in that intersection,” she said.
According to a MSP statement, Tpr. Hager was transported to Atlantic General Hospital due to injuries he sustained during the crash. Other than the official statement, there was no further comment, an official spokesman said on Nov. 13.
Jerry Wilson, Superintendent of Schools said in a statement, “We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Tymeir Dennis, an eleventh grade student from Stephen Decatur High School. It is devastating to lose a young life; it brings immeasurable grief to our entire community.” He said to help students in the grieving process the school had activated “Life Lines” – a crisis response program – which will place additional school counselors at both SDHS and Worcester Technical, for as long as students need the additional support.
“Our hearts go out to Tymeir’s family and classmates,” said SDHS Principal Tom Zimmer. “It is an unthinkable loss when a teenager passes so unexpectedly. We are also praying for Tyheim’s recovery. As a community, we will pull together to support one another. We need to keep the family in our thoughts and prayers.”
During the town meeting Town Council Vice President Elroy Brittingham read a letter that Mayor Gee Williams had sent to the parents expressing the town’s condolences for their loss. “Please know that our hearts go out to these fine young men and to you as their parents,” he said. “On behalf of myself, the entire Town Council and the community of Berlin, please accept our prayers for a full recovery by Tyhiem and the comfort of knowing Tymeir is now in the loving embrace of the Good Lord,” the letter said.
Dennis said the family had received no correspondence from the Maryland State Police, at press time. She said the owner of the Atlantic Stand, Tymeir’s employer, had offered condolences to the family.
Brittingham also read a statement from Williams that the town would make a formal request to the State Highway Administration “to study the intersection of U.S. 113 and Bay Street (MD 376) to ask them to determine if either additional highway lighting, or a Pedestrian Countdown signal and related markings, are warranted at the intersection as a result of Friday evening’s tragic accident.”
Williams added the request would also call for determining whether additional lighting was warranted, at the crossover on US 113, just South of Bay Street that serves the main entrance to Decatur Farm.
An angry Councilmember Lisa Hall pointed out during the meeting that she had repeatedly warned about the intersection and others like it in the vicinity for years. She said in an interview later, “It doesn’t cost anything to exchange the speed signs from 50 miles per hour to 35 mph or 40 mph. It doesn’t cost anything for use existing solar-powered signs to alert drivers to look for pedestrians ahead. We need to slow that traffic down.”
Hall said SHA officials also needed to light the intersection. “That is a very dark intersection at night,” she said.
Berlin Police Chief Arnold Downing said 63 accidents had occurred at the intersection since 2000.
SHA District Engineer Donnie Drewer said on Nov. 13 that officials were in the process of conducting a complete review of the incident.
Several members of the public attended the meeting to voice both their condolences to the family and concerns for the safety of the public at the intersection. The next morning, Gabe Purnell said he was “encouraged by what I saw at the meeting last night.” He suggested it was a possible start to the community becoming proactive in seeking solutions to the safety problem at the intersection.
Patricia Dufendach, made a presentation documenting the safety problems that have plagued the intersection for years and compared it with other areas that have been equipped with pedestrian crosswalk count down devices. She called for a community meeting on the matter at the Multipurpose Building on Flower Street, and asked town, county and state officials to attend.
She said later “We want something to happen this time. Nothing is going to happen if we don’t start making some noise.” Beginning on the evening of Nov. 13 at 4 p.m. proponents in favor of the installation of pedestrian safety signs and/or signals will begin walking across the intersection to bring awareness to the situation, she said.
“I believe that Berlin citizens deserve the same safety considerations as any tourist or visitor to the county,” Dufendach said. She added, “We don’t want Berlin to be known as the place where people die on the highway.”
Tymeir Dennis will lie in repose on Nov. 15, from 6-8 p.m. at St. John A.M.E. Church located on 1038 Bishopville Road in Bishopville and Nov. 16, from 10-11 a.m. at Calvary Pentecostal Church located on 13325 Worcester Highway in Bishopville. The funeral service will begin at 11 a.m. Interment will follow in St. Paul’s Cemetery located on Assateague Road in Berlin.