Man dies in fiery crash at Dresden

John Christensen
The Chronicle-Express

A one-car fatal crash off the side of the 100 ft. high bridge near Dresden occurred Sunday, Aug. 23.

Yates County Deputies at the top of the Keuka Outlet gorge examine the path taken by the Jeep SUV that went off Rte. 14 at high speed, became airborne, flew over the riverbed of the Outlet, collided with a tree, and burst into flames.

According to a preliminary release from Yates County Sheriff Ron Spike, a 911 call was received at 9:54 a.m. that a vehicle had “catapulted” off the Rte. 14 bridge, landed near the Keuka Outlet, and was on fire. The Dresden Fire Dept. and Yates Co. Emergency Management responded using ATV’s to reach the scene. The bridge remained closed for four hours as a coroner and the Accident Reconstruction Unit examined the scene.

In a later update, Sheriff Spike said Deputies were also investigating a missing person reported from the Town of Jerusalem several minutes prior to the collision, and believed the crash may be related. According to witness statements, the crash may have been a deliberate act, reported Spike.

“Yates County Coroner Ronald Daily pronounced the death at the scene, and the body has been taken to the Monroe County Medical Examiner for forensic positive identification,” said Spike. Dental records and other means were needed to discover the person’s identity and cause of death.

Dresden Firefighters extinguished the burning wreckage from trucks on the deck of the bridge and with handheld extingishers carried from the Outlet Trail.

Monday morning, Spike confirmed the body of the person operating the vehicle has been identified by the Monroe County Medical Examiner as JAMES S. HAYES, 37, of Rte. 54A, Penn Yan, the missing person reported Sunday morning to Yates County 911 moments before the crash and fire.

The cause of death and cause of the accident is yet to be determined and still under investigation by the Coroner’s Office and Sheriff’s Deputies.

“Preliminary indicators that the vehicle appears to have deliberately traveled at a high speed northbound off the eastside embankment near the gorge adjacent to the Rte. 14 bridge structure and went airborne over the Keuka Outlet stream, colliding with a large tree approximately 12 feet up from the ground and bursting into flames, thereafter coming to rest on the north side of the stream,” said Spike. 

Dresden Firefighters extinguished the Jeep SUV from the bridge top, sending water down the 100 foot drop, as well as on foot with extinguishers. The vehicle was completely destroyed by the fire, including any identification and license plates, said Spike. 

“As many people were walking or visiting the Outlet Trail at the time, anyone with photos of the incident or of the fire are asked to contact the Sheriff’s Office 315-536-4438 or email as the pics may be helpful to this investigation,” requested Spike.

“This is the third Sunday in a row that Deputies and Dispatchers have had to deal with major incidents in the county.”