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    Monday, March 04, 2024

    Dirt bike riders leave victims at scene of fatal Groton crash

    Groton ―Town Police say a 24-year-old Norwich woman was killed and a Mashantucket man seriously injured Monday night in a crash where a group of dirt bike and ATV riders fled with the crashed dirt bike but left the victims in the roadway.

    Groton Town Police Chief L.J. Fusaro called the act of leaving the two injured victims a “wanton disregard for human life.”

    The crash occurred at 9:26 p.m. at the intersection of Long Hill Road and Meridian Street Extension, at the Groton Shopping Center.

    Police said the dirt bike with the two victims was traveling north on Long Hill Road when it went through a red light and struck a car driven by Crystal Vinoya, 24, of 17 Atlanta Court. Vinoya was traveling south and had a green light to turn into the Groton Shopping Center at 694 Long Hill Road.

    The dirt bike, operated by Scott Whipple, 25, of Coachman Pike, Mashantucket, struck the passenger side of the Vinoya’s Audi Q7. Whipple’s passenger, 24-year-old Tiara Wheeler of 203 Rogers Road in Norwich, was thrown from the dirt bike and struck the Audi. She died from her injuries.

    Police said at least 10 dirt bikes and ATVs were operating recklessly in the area of the crash earlier in the evening, some with no lights on, popping wheelies, performing doughnuts and apparently trying to bait police officers into pursuing them on Long Hill Road and Route 12. Police said they did not pursue the group.

    Video of the crash that was captured on a nearby surveillance camera shows that one dirt bike makes it through the intersection before Whipple. Police said Whipple performed a wheelie and came down on two wheels just prior to the collision. Whipple was taken to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital and later airlifted to Yale New Haven Hospital, where he was listed in critical condition on Tuesday.

    Vinoya was taken to L+M for an evaluation and released.

    Police said the other dirt bike riders did not remain with the victims or provide aid but instead took the dirt bike involved in the crash and fled.

    Fusaro, in a statement, called the incident “a very unfortunate tragedy that resulted in the loss of life of one young lady, and a second young man is clinging to life.”

    “What is most troubling is that someone who may have been traveling with them stopped for this crash, and rather than rendering aid to the critically injured parties, removed the dirt bike from the road,” Fusaro said. “In addition to the wanton disregard for human life, the actions of removing the involved dirt bike from the scene has tampered with and impeded this investigation.”

    Fusaro said reckless behavior on the roadways poses a danger to those operators and innocent motorists. Similar incidents of gangs of dirt bikes and ATVs operating illegally on the roadways have led to ordinances in New London and Norwich that impose fines for riders who are caught and allow for seizure and destruction of the bikes.

    “Unless this behavior stops, I fear more of these senseless tragedies will occur,” Fusaro said.

    Anyone with information about the crash, the location of the involved dirt bike or the identity of people in the group of riders is encouraged to call police at (860) 441-6712.

    g.smith@theday.com

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