Fast, furious and under arrest

Fatal Crash
Accident investigators look over the deadly wreckage that took place on July 30 on Sandmeyer Lane near Red Lion Road Somerton.

MAYBE YOU'RE a street racer and think your skills could make you a star in Fast & Furious.

 

So you don't worry about killing yourself or someone else at the late-night races that burn stinking rubber on Aramingo Avenue. Or terrify normal drivers on State Road. Or pull adrenaline junkies to the Auto Mall on Essington Avenue after the dealerships have closed for the day.

That doesn't mean you're off the hook if the bozo you're racing against wrecks his ride and sends himself or others to the grave.

Just look at what has happened to Ryan Farrell, 20. He was not behind the wheel of the speeding Acura that crashed on Sandmeyer Lane in Somerton last July, killing three and injuring another.

But police say he was racing that car's driver, Chris Bloomfield, also 20. Last weekend, police charged Bloomfield with homicide by vehicle, aggravated assault, involuntary manslaughter, and other charges that could send him to prison until he's an old man - or a dead one.

On Tuesday, Farrell was arrested, too, for his alleged part in the crash that critically injured Bogdan Arutyunov and killed Sabrina Rhoads, Yvette Gonzalez, and Felipe Hernandez.

Until the warrants were issued, the rage of the victims' loved ones was mainly against Bloomfield.

His involvement in the catastrophe is obvious. But authorities say Farrell is just as culpable.

When you examine the "causation standards" in prosecuting homicides, says Assistant District Attorney Tom Lipscomb, who prosecutes vehicle deaths, "if one's actions are a direct and substantial cause of an unbroken chain of events that end in death, then one can be liable for criminal homicide."

A race isn't a race unless one driver is racing another. Hence Farrell's arrest.

So here's a warning to Philly's lead-footed fools: If you participate in a "contest of speed" - the legal term for street racing - and it results in harm to another, you are going down, even if the victim wasn't in your car or struck by it.

So, hit the brakes.

Oh, who am I kidding? In a year or two, the Sandmeyer Lane horror will be a distant memory and a new street-racing tragedy will have us shaking our heads all over again. If the shocking 2013 deaths of Samara Banks and her kids on Roosevelt Boulevard didn't school joyriders on the potential sorrow of their hobby, I doubt the deaths on Sandmeyer Lane will, either.

Banks, 27, was crossing the Boulevard that July evening with her children when street racer Khusen Akhmedov slammed his 2012 Audi right into them. Banks and sons Saa'mir Williams, 7 months; Saa'sean Williams, 23 months; and Saa'deem Griffin, 4, were killed. Another son, Saa'yon Griffin, then 5, had made it to the grassy median a nanosecond before his mom and brothers were taken from him.

Akhmedov, 25, is serving 17 to 34 years for third-degree murder. The sentence reflects his prior citations for reckless driving - including one issued just eight days before he turned the Boulevard into a slaughterhouse.

The guy was a menace.

The man he was racing, Ahmen Holloman, 34, who drove a 1994 Honda Civic, is doing five to 10 years for vehicular homicide.

Before the race, the men had been strangers to each other. What hormone-addled glance, sneaky grin, or obscene gesture passed between the two that made them drive like they were in a NASCAR Sprint Cup event?

Witnesses said Akhmedov and Holloman wove in and out of traffic through Feltonville and Olney, their vehicles so close that they appeared fused into one. Akhmedov crested a hill of the Boulevard just as Banks and her kids were crossing on its down side. He hit the brakes but still sent Banks flying 210 feet down the road.

The only good thing you can say about Akhmedov and Holloman is that they didn't flee the scene, as Bloomfield and Farrell did on Sandmeyer Lane last summer. On the other hand, Akhmedov's Audi wasn't drivable after the crash, so who knows what he would have done if it had been? Anyone callous enough to bomb down the boulevard of a heavily residential neighborhood isn't someone with a humanitarian bent.

While the men serve their time, Banks' family is serving a sad sentence of grief, says Banks' aunt Latanya Byrd.

"We're hanging in there, but it's so hard," says Byrd. "Samara was our oldest niece, and she would've been the first one to turn 30 this year - her birthday just passed. We think about her all the time."

Banks' surviving child, Saa'yon Griffin, now 8 and in third grade, is doing well, says Byrd.

Academically, he is flourishing. He attends an excellent school, where counselors and teachers know him well and help him cope with his loss. He talks often of his brothers and of the nature walks he took with his mom, who'd identify birds and trees by name for him.

"He remembers," says Byrd. "He's a very smart little boy."

By weird coincidence, on Dec. 29, Byrd met Erin Gonzalez, whose daughter, Yvette, was one of the Sandmeyer Lane victims.

Byrd had just arrived for lunch at Benny the Bum's Seafood Restaurant in Northeast Philly. Gonzalez was in the parking lot with a group of people wearing shirts silk-screened with photos of the Sandmeyer Lane victims. They were about to walk from the restaurant - where the victims had gathered before they died - to the crash site to mark the five-month anniversary of the deaths.

When Byrd learned the reason for their gathering, she identified herself to Gonzalez as Banks' aunt. Gonzalez immediately pulled her into her arms. The two women embraced for a long time.

"It felt right to hug her," says Byrd. "I knew exactly what she was feeling. She didn't feel like a stranger at all."

Oh, my heart.

If only Philly's wannabe Fast & Furious drivers had a clue of the heartache they tempt every time they fly down a road.

Would it slow them down?

Email: polaner@phillynews.com.

Phone: 215-854-2217

On Twitter: @RonniePhilly

Blog: ph.ly/RonnieBlog

Columns: ph.ly/Ronnie