Video of Stamford fatal pedestrian accident shown to begin trial
STAMFORD — Retired traffic Sgt. Andrew Gallagher on Tuesday helped begin the state’s case against a city man charged with killing a 58-year-old Fairfield woman in a crosswalk last year.
Gallagher said George Christiansen, 30, was behind the wheel of a Dodge Ram Sprinter-type van waiting to make a right turn at the corner of Elm and North State streets just after 7 a.m. on Jan. 2, 2018.
Christiansen has been charged with a felony count of second-degree manslaughter. If the state proves beyond a reasonable doubt that he recklessly caused the death of Henkle employee Lynette Wagner, he faces up to 10 years in jail. Judge Richard Comerford is presiding over the bench trial.
Gallagher, supervisor for the Stamford police department’s Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Squad, said Christiansen told him immediately after the accident that he was turning right onto westbound North State on a green light when the accident happened.
Gallagher said Christiansen told him it felt like his right rear wheel ran over something, but he knew it was not the curb because he was too far away.
After pulling over on North State, bystanders told him he had just struck someone. Wagner was pulling a wheeled briefcase behind her as she headed to work at the Henkel building just four lanes away from where she was killed.
Gallagher testified that another officer checked the traffic camera, which he said caught the entire accident. He said it was the first time he’s seen a traffic camera capture an entire accident.
Assistant State’s Attorney Daniel Cummings played the video while Gallagher testified. The video showed Wagner about 15 to 20 feet feet away from the front bumper of Christiansen’s van, which was about 15 feet beyond the painted stop line on the street. The video showed the van was about two-thirds into the crosswalk.
The video then showed Wagner walking to the front right corner of the van and a big plume of smoke coming out the rear of the vehicle and Wagner disappearing under the truck. The camera then moved to a different position showing cars coming down the Interstate 95 Exit 8 ramp into Stamford.
Tim Wagner, who had been married to his wife for 33 years, and other family and friends left the courtroom before the video was played. In the hallway, Tim Wagner declined comment on the trial.
But Gallagher also pointed out the video showed Christiansen had a red light when he turned, but the intersection allowed for a right turn on red. The video also showed that Wagner was walking against the pedestrian crossing light, Gallagher said.
Cummings also showed a re-creation of the accident that showed Wagner could have clearly been seen in the right windshield of the van before she was struck.
Under cross-examination by Christiansen’s defense attorney, Lindy Urso, Gallagher acknowledged the defendant had no traffic violations on his record and that in many instances a person’s recollections are sometimes inaccurate right after a big accident.
Gallagher also acknowledged under the cross-examination that pulling around the corner from the stop line without stopping, rather than creeping up to the intersection like Christiansen did could be more dangerous.
Urso also had Gallagher look at his own arrest affidavit and admitted that, according to the police timeline of the accident, it was less than a half second from when Wagner stepped into the crosswalk and when Christiansen pulled forward and struck her.
The trial will continue with one witness on Wednesday and then resume Tuesday when testimony in the case could be completed.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated George Christiansen’s van was two-thirds into the sidewalk. His van was two-thirds into the crosswalk.