Police report details snowplow incident

By Shanna O’Mara

Sophomore marketing major Rithika Ramasubbu was hit by a university vehicle last month, but returned to school on March 19.

University employee William Montes was behind the wheel during the March 7 incident involving a Rider student who was hit by and then stuck under the snowplow, according to the crash investigation report filed by police.

The Rider News obtained the report after making a public records request to Lawrence Police.

Montes was charged with careless driving after backing over sophomore marketing major Rithika Ramasubbu in front of Lincoln Hall during the snowstorm, the report said.

Montes’ wife contacted a Rider News reporter via Facebook and said her husband was suspended for one week without pay.

University spokeswoman Kristine Brown did not confirm this and said, “Personnel matters are confidential so I cannot comment on that.”

Officer Shawn Carroll wrote in the report that “several students ran up to [Montes’] truck, waving their hands as he was backing. [Montes] did not know [Ramasubbu] was struck, as he did not feel an impact.”

One of the students was Amari Johnson, point guard on the women’s basketball team for which Ramasubbu worked as a manager.

“I ran over to the driver and smacked his window so he would stop,” Johnson said.

Montes’ wife said she has seen her husband struggle since the accident. She wrote, “I would like you to know that the driver of that snowplow — an employee of Rider for over 20 years — has suffered greatly since this incident and was devastated by this accident. [He] has two daughters not much older than Ms. Ramasubbu and cannot stop thinking about what could have happened.”

She said he has since hired a lawyer.

Ramasubbu refused to comment on if she is filing a lawsuit. However, she did share that she has been recovering well since returning to campus on March 19.

Carroll wrote that Ramasubbu was wearing a white coat with her hood up that day and had her Beats headphones over her ears, but they were not playing music. She walked across the open field in front of the dorm, looked left for cars, and then stepped onto the road before being struck. She did not look right, the report said, because traffic runs one way so she did not expect a vehicle to be traveling from that direction.

The snowplow “did not have a reverse audible warning signal at the time of our investigation,” Carroll wrote.

This feature is not legally mandated on vehicles under 16,000 pounds in New Jersey, according to state legislation.

“All of our campus vehicles comply with current motor vehicle regulations,” Brown said.

Brown declined to comment on why the university has not added this feature to campus vehicles for student safety.

Carroll wrote that when officers arrived, the snowplow “was at its final resting position,” and Ramasubbu was “pinned under the front axle and truck frame.” He reported that she was conscious and complaining of back pain. Lawrence Road Fire Company Rescue 22 members lifted the snowplow and removed Ramasubbu from underneath.

“We arrived on scene at 2:06 p.m. and made contact with the patient,” Wayne Hannon, assistant chief of Rescue 22, said. “We utilized an air bag, cribbing [to stabilize the truck] and a jack to lift the plow and pull her out through the front of the vehicle.”

The truck was impounded and towed to the police station, the report said. Ramasubbu was transported to the Capital Health trauma unit.

Carroll wrote, “I have determined that the nor’easter with blowing snow, [Ramasubbu] wearing a white jacket in the field covered with several inches of snow and [Montes] backing unsafely, all contributed to this incident.”

Montes’ wife shared, “Please know that my prayers and thoughts have been with [Ramasubbu] constantly since that day, and I am so thankful her injuries were not life-threatening,” she said. “Our main concern is the health and welfare of Ms. Ramasubbu.”

She refused to comment any further, as did her husband, citing counsel from their lawyer.

Additional reporting by Mary-Lyn Buckley

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