Unexpected chemical reaction evacuates ESS Building, injures two

A graduate student and a faculty member were transported to the Stony Brook Hospital Emergency Room after they sustained minor injuries. (ANUSHA MOOKHERJEE/THE STATESMAN)

A graduate student and a faculty member were transported to the Stony Brook Hospital Emergency Room after they sustained minor injuries. (ANUSHA MOOKHERJEE/THE STATESMAN)

A Stony Brook University graduate student and a faculty member were escorted from the Earth and Space Sciences Building to the Stony Brook University Hospital emergency room around 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 15 after an irregular reaction during a chemical experiment on the second floor.

Assistant Chief of Police and Director of the Office of Emergency Management Lawrence Zacarese said the student and faculty member sustained minor injuries and were transported to the hospital for further evaluation.

Steven Jaret, a graduate student in planetary geology, was inside the building when the reaction occurred.

“After the explosion, you could feel the building shake,” he said.

Zacarese said that the building would be shut down for the evening so that campus representatives and structural engineers could assess the damage. He said more information about the extent of the damage and the reopening of the building would be available tomorrow.

The History 104 final exam, which was supposed to take place in the ESS building at 5:30 p.m., was turned into a take-home final exam when the building’s closure was announced.

Zacarese said professors made other arrangements for their exams that were supposed to take place this evening.

 

Firefighters respond to brush fire behind Tabler Quad

Firefighters work to extinguish a small brush fire behind Tabler Quad. (JESUS PICHARDO / THE STATESMAN)

Firefighters work to extinguish a small brush fire behind Tabler Quad. (JESUS PICHARDO / THE STATESMAN)

Due to wind direction and speed, a small brush fire ignited in a patch of bamboo on private property behind Tabler Quad and spread onto Stony Brook University property around 11:30 a.m. today, according to Assistant Chief of Police Lawrence Zacarese.

Stony Brook University Police, Fire Marshals and Stony Brook Fire Department responded to the call with four police cruisers, three fire marshal vehicles and two fire engines.

According to Zacarese, the fire was contained to a 20 by 30 foot area and firefighters were able to quickly get it under control. There was no property damage or injuries.

 

Campus shocked by power outage

Students ever evacuated early afternoon as power went out in the Student Union. (NINA LIN / THE STATESMAN)

Students ever evacuated early Tuesday afternoon as power went out in the Student Union. (NINA LIN / THE STATESMAN)

The university announced that there was a power outage at approximately 2:30 p.m. The DEC Building, Infirmary, Mendelsohn and H Quads, the Stony Brook Union and the Sewage Treatment Plant were all affected.

According to Assistant Chief of Police and Director of the Office of Emergency Management Lawrence Zacarese, these buildings currently have power, or are in the process of getting power. The University Police Department does not know the cause of the outage however, they believe the issue originated at Langmuir College.

The power outage triggered the fire alarm in the Union. Students and Faculty members temporarily evacuated the building after the alarm went off. During the outage, Campus Dining services were temporarily suspended.

Police arrest student on assault charges

by Giselle Barkley and Rebecca Anzel

On Friday, March 14 at 1:30 a.m., university police responded to a report of a fight between two male students.

A verbal and then physical altercation transpired between the two students, who are residents of Irving College, according to Assistant Chief of Police Lawrence Zacarese.

Police arrested the assailant, who was charged with assault in the third degree, added Zacarese in a statement.

Stony Brook Volunteer Ambulance Corps President Roxana Mehran said SBVAC transported the two male students from Irving College to the Stony Brook University Hospital.

It is still unknown who the two male students are and their current condition.

6:21 p.m., March 15: According to a statement made by Roxana Mehran, president of the Stony Brook Volunteer Ambulance Corps, SBVAC transported the two male students from Irving College to the Stony Brook University Hospital.

6:29 p.m.: On Friday, March 14 at 1:30 a.m., university police responded to a report of a fight between two male students.

A verbal and then physical altercation transpired between the two students, who are residents of Irving College, according to Assistant Chief of Police Lawrence Zacarese.

Police arrested the assailant, who was charged with assault in the third degree, added Zacarese in a statement.


 

Three snowstorms means triple the work for SB Facilities and Services

(ANUSHA MOOKHERJEE / THE STATESMAN)

This snow season bought more slush and ice to Stony Brook University as the university scrambles to handle slips and accidents. (ANUSHA MOOKHERJEE / THE STATESMAN)

Within the first few weeks of this semester, snowstorms have brought students three days of cancelled classes and brought the university three days of snow removal efforts.

President Samuel L. Stanley made the decision to cancel classes in deliberation with the Emergency Management office, according to Assistant Vice President for Facilities and Services Terence Harrigan.

Considerations included timing of the snow and its expected impact on the region.

“Despite the large residential student housing population, we also need to consider the students, faculty and staff that travel from off campus and throughout the NYC metro area,” Director of the Office of Emergency Management Lawrence Zacarese explained via email.

The recent cancellations included fitness classes at the Campus Recreation Center, suspension of SBU Transit services, early closure of Student Health Service and Stony Brook Child Care Services.

The budget for snow removal varies from year to year. “We can spend an average of 50k [sic] per snow event in extreme circumstances and as low as a thousand dollars for light snow events,” Director of Residential Operations John Sparano wrote in an email.

The budget for residential snow removal includes plowing and salting contract labor, hand shoveling contract labor, internal maintenance and custodial labor and bulk purchases for hand and street ice melting efforts.

Regularly consulting with Emergency Management, Facilities and Services conducts snow removal for West Campus in order to keep the main roads open. After that, they move to secondary roads and parking lots as the storm winds down, according to Harrigan.

The budget covering labor and materials for West Campus is $75,000—the same as last year.

“Routinely the costs exceed that amount,” Harrigan wrote via email, “There are emergency funds set aside to cover the additional snow removal costs.”

Coordination among various university departments is essential in undertaking the task of dealing with the snow. The Office of Emergency Management works mainly with Campus Operations and Maintenance to organize snow removal efforts and emergency communications. Emergency Management collaborates with partners such as the National Weather Service to track forecasts and make informed decisions about closings and delays, according to Zacarese.

He explained that such communications occur days in advance and throughout weather events. Before each of the storms in the past weeks, Emergency Management has posted weather updates on Twitter and SB Alert.

As for the snow removal, the responsibilities are divided between the University Hospital, academic buildings and residences, according to Director of Residential Operations John Sparano.

He explained that Residential Operations is primarily in charge of the residence halls and dining buildings within the quads, with the priority of clearing main roadways, bus loops and main paths to building entrances for emergency access. Snow removal began during the recent snow events and continued for several days around each residential building.

It has been a year since Winter Storm Nemo hit Stony Brook’s campus, which brought extreme amounts of snow. The university, however, used the extreme weather to make improvements to this year’s snow removal plan.

Zacarese explained that Emergency Management has had several rounds of meetings with Brookhaven town officials, Suffolk County officials, local fire departments and colleagues in the New York State Department of Transportation to discuss challenges faced during Nemo.

Since Stony Brook is surrounded by roads serviced by all of those groups—Nicolls Road is a county road, 347 and 25A are both state roads and Stony Brook Road is a town road— “it made sense to get all of the ‘snow removal players’ in the room at the same time,” Zacarese said.

The meetings, which will continue in the future, lead to changes in timing and logistics associated with plow routes to better address conditions on roads that service the campus.

Campus Residences improved the planning process before large events after Nemo in an effort to be conservative.

“We did not anticipate the Suffolk County roadways to be as severely restricted as they were during and after the storm, and we experienced difficulty getting some of the heavier equipment truck to campus in a timely manner,” Sparano explained.

This year, Campus Residences has prepared by positioning heavy snow removal machinery on campus before heavy snow events begin.

As for Facilities and Services, “We continually work on improving our service. Each year we learn more about the needs of the campus and how we can better meet those needs,” Harrigan said about his office’s focus on making the roadways and walkways safe.

One year later, university remains silent

The bend in Circle Road where Brianna Bifone was hit by police officer Salvatore Casaccio remains unchanged after the accident last year. (RADHIKA SHARMA / THE STATEMAN)

The bend in Circle Road where Brianna Bifone was hit by police officer Salvatore Casaccio remains unchanged after the accident last year. (RADHIKA SHARMA / THE STATEMAN)

When a string of muggings took place in the South P Lot earlier this academic year, the campus was notified. When a student committed suicide last spring, everyone received a text. So why is it that when Brianna Bifone was hit by a police officer and pinned under a cruiser for 30 minutes, the university fell silent?

Bifone was walking down Circle Road almost a year ago, on Feb. 7, 2013, when campus police officer Salvatore Casaccio was responding to a call of a “large group” in the Student Union. Casaccio cut across an entire lane of traffic, jumped the curb and hit Bifone, where she lay pinned under the car in an embankment for about half an hour.

Stony Brook University never publicly released Casaccio’s name, and this is the first time it has appeared in print.

A stretch of Circle Road was blocked off by a swarm of police cars and ambulances, making it impossible for both vehicles and pedestrians to pass. It took about two hours until everything was clear.

Assistant Chief of Police Lawrence Zacarese spoke to student journalists on site, saying Bifone’s injuries were mild, but she suffered serious injuries as a result of the collision. Bifone subsequently suffered from liver damage and sleep problems, and spent one month in the hospital and time in a wheelchair.

Bifone refused to comment to journalists since the accident happened, but some of her tweets since the accident illustrate her ongoing health struggles.

“It’s getting harder and harder to just keep smiling,” Bifone said on her public Twitter account on Sept. 6, 2013. “So tired of being sick. It’s literally one thing after another with me.”

Since the accident, it was never publicly acknowledged whether officer Casaccio still is employed as a police officer at the university. However, according to Lauren Sheprow, head of media relations at Stony Brook, “the officer involved in the accident, he is no longer employed at Stony Brook University.”

Stony Brook released no official statement to the campus community regarding the Feb. 7 accident. However, during a presentation made to student journalists in October 2013, Assistant Chief of Patrol Eric Olsen said that “in most cases, we release information once the family is notified” when questioned about police practices and procedures.

With no communication from the university, students began to speculate and worry. At the scene, imaginations ran wild and rumors began to spread that it was a shooting and that the girl was dead.

A year later, students still do not have the story straight, while others have not heard about it at all. Kate Dubickas, 22, a marine science major, had heard that Bifone was “crossing the street with headphones in when a cop car with sirens hit her.”

“I definitely noticed that there wasn’t a public apology or any admission of fault on the part of the police,” Jonathon John, 21, an economics major at Stony Brook, said. “It’s obvious mistakes happen, but there are better ways to handle them.”

“People are so sensitive about what they say about police officers because it’s such a ‘heroic’ position,” Dubickas said, “but it doesn’t exempt them from terrible mistakes. I understand the motives behind the university’s cover-up, but it doesn’t justify it or make it at all acceptable.”

“I feel like it’s a breach of community and trust, like they’re trying to cover something up,” Mike Thompson, a senior marine vertebrae biology major at Stony Brook, said. “I do feel like SBU is less like a community because of it, and it isn’t right that we had to find out via the on campus newspaper.”

When asked to comment on why the school was not, and still has not been notified as to what happened that night, Sheprow responded: “There is litigation ongoing; it is University policy not to comment on matters of litigation.”

The case began March 1, 2013, and is pending before Judge Richard Sise. The defendant State of New York is represented by the Officer of the Attorney General of the State of New York. Legal action began on April 8, 2013 and is still ongoing.

“I’m at that point in my recovery where some days are good and some are bad, and the nights usually suck,” Bifone’s Twitter read. “I hate this.”

Bifone retained the Melville law firm of McAndrew, Conboy & Prisco, LLP, who brought a lawsuit on her behalf as plaintiff against the State of New York in the New York Court of Claims. In accordance with state law, legal claims against the state must be instituted only through the Court of Claims.

“She’s not doing too well,” Kevin B. McAndrew, a managing partner at Bifone’s representing law firm, said.

Cyclist pinned under SUV near Nobel Halls

By Rebecca Anzel and Deanna Del Ciello

An SUV hit and pinned a biker near Nobel Halls. (ANUSHA MOOKHERJEE / THE STATESMAN)

An SUV hit and pinned a biker near Nobel Halls. (ANUSHA MOOKHERJEE / THE STATESMAN)

A cyclist was hit and pinned underneath a white Chevrolet SUV at the intersection of Circle Road and Roosevelt Drive at approximately 3:45 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21, according to officials. 

Residential student Robert Capuano, the cyclist, was taken by Stony Brook Volunteer Ambulance Corps to Stony Brook University Hospital. According to Assistant Chief of Police Lawrence Zacarese, the biker sustained minor injuries. It is unclear how long the biker was under the SUV.

The driver, commuter student Anastasia Ambrosio, was evaluated at the scene by the Stony Brook Volunteer Ambulance Corps and was not injured, according to Zacarese. 

Lieutenant John Stankaitis said the investigation is ongoing, and Zacarese said more information will be released as it becomes available.

Check back for updates.

10:20 a.m., Sept. 23: As of 7:23 p.m. on Sept. 22, Robert Capuano, the cyclist, was at Stony Brook University Hospital as an admitted patient, according to Assistant Chief of Police Lawrence Zacarese. Capuano’s class year at Stony Brook and major are still unknown.

The driver of the white Chevrolet SUV was identified by Zacarese on Monday as commuter student Anastasia Ambrosio. “There are no pending charges in this incident,” he said.

7:47 p.m.: Stony Brook Volunteer Ambulance Corps President Roxana Mehran said when the biker was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital, he or she was in stable condition. Assistant Chief of Police Lawrence Zacarese said the biker sustained minor injuries. The biker’s identity is still unknown.

Zacarese also said the driver was evaluated at the scene by SBVAC and was found to not be injured.

The time of the accident was confirmed by Zacarese to be at approximately 3:45 p.m.

“The accident remains under investigation,” he said, “and further information will be released as it becomes available.”

The driver of the white SUV, who identifies herself as Anastasia to reporters, fills out paperwork after an accident at the corner of Roosevelt Dr. and Circle Rd on Sept. 21, 2013. Here, she sits at the scene of the accident. (GISELLE BARKLEY / THE STATESMAN)

The driver of the white SUV, identified as Anastasia Ambrosio by Assistant Chief of Police Lawrence Zacarese, fills out paperwork after an accident at the corner of Roosevelt Dr. and Circle Rd on Sept. 21, 2013. Here, she sits at the scene of the accident. (GISELLE BARKLEY / THE STATESMAN)

5:21 p.m.: The Statesman previously reported the cyclist was heading toward Engineering. It is unclear what direction the biker was heading in.

“I still have more investigating to do,” Lt. Stankaitis said of the incident. “I have to make a couple more notifications.”

The cyclist was pinned underneath the front right tire of the SUV.

The scene has been cleared and traffic flow is normal.

5:05 p.m.: A cyclist was hit and pinned underneath a vehicle at the intersection of Circle Road and Roosevelt Drive earlier this afternoon, according to officials.

The cyclist was hit when approaching the bike path near Engineering by a white Chevrolet SUV. The biker was taken from the scene in an ambulance. It is unclear how long the biker was under the car, the extent of the biker’s injuries or the biker’s identity.

Lieutenant John Stankaitis said the investigation is ongoing and the police are not ready to give a statement.

The driver, a female student who said her name is Anastasia, was not injured.

There was no damage to the SUV. The bike, a Cannondale, was destroyed.

Police are directing traffic at the intersection.

Reporting by Rebecca Anzel and Giselle Barkley

Police arrest three teens in robbery case

Thursday, Sept. 13, 4:03 p.m.: University Police have arrested three 16-year-old individuals in relation to the recent robberies on campus.

Two individuals from East Setauket were arrested on Wednesday, Sept. 11 and the third, from Setauket, was arrested on Thursday, Sept. 12., according to Assistant Chief of Police and Director of Campus Emergency Management Lawrence Zacarese.

“Through the use of technology, the use of surveillance techniques, cooperation of the Suffolk County Police Department and just good old fashioned police work, we were able to identify some of the property that was taken during the first robbery,” Zacarese said. “And thereafter with ongoing investigations we were able to identify the three individuals that were involved.”

Zacarese also said that the police received several tips in relation to the robberies, but cannot disclose the information as it is still an open case.

The three individuals have no affiliation with Stony Brook and the issue will now be pursued in the Suffolk County Criminal Courts, Chief of Police Robert J. Lenahan said in an email to the campus community.

Wednesday, Sept. 4, 4:48 p.m.: Investigations of the recent robberies are ongoing, according to University Police Chief Robert Lenahan, and “no matter how small or minute” a lead may be, the police are exploring them all.

“This is a safe campus,” Lenahan said in a phone interview. “These incidents are rare indeed so we’re being proactive.”

Lenahan does advise students to walk with others around campus, stay in public areas and report any suspicious behavior to the police.

Tuesday, Sept. 3, 10:32 a.m.: Two more students reported attempted robbery early this morning, according to a new statement issued to the campus by University Police.

According to the report, two male students were walking another male student back to his residence hall when they were approached by two males on the bicycle path between the Athletic fields.  The victims were threatened with an “Airsoft” pistol, the statement said, but had nothing to give the suspects.

The suspects fled in an unknown direction, according to the police statement.  Descriptions of the suspects are available in the police statement.

Published on Sept. 2: A student reported being robbed at knifepoint on Sunday, Sept. 1, according to a statement issued to the campus by University Police Chief Robert Lenahan.

The victim was walking on the bicycle path by the recreation fields, the statement said, and was approached by two to three suspects.  One of the suspects, described as a male wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt, took out a knife and demanded the victim’s cell phone and wallet, according to the statement.

No one was injured, Lenahan’s statement said, and any information regarded the robbery should be reported to police.

Small fire breaks out on campus bus

Emergency response vehicles closed down a portion of Circle Road as fluid and residue from an engine fire aboard a campus bus Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013 was cleaned up. (Mike Pedersen / The Statesman)

Emergency response vehicles closed down a portion of Circle Road as fluid and residue from an engine fire aboard a campus bus Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013 was cleaned up. (Mike Pedersen / The Statesman)

An engine compartment fire broke out on a campus bus at approximately 9:30 a.m. this morning near the Roth/Tabler bus stop on the Outer Loop route, according to Assistant Chief of Police Lawrence Zacarese.

All 11 students and the bus driver were safely evacuated and fire marshals were able to put out the fire with a small fire extinguisher. There was no fire department response.

“The bus driver came around the circle and was able to determine there was a funny odor on the bus,” Zacarese said. “He pulled over and the fire marshals were here almost immediately.”

The portion of Circle Road in front of the bus stop was temporarily closed while engine fluids and residue from the fire were cleaned up.

SBU police officer strikes pedestrian with patrol car

A Stony Brook Police Department cruiser is removed from a ditch near the Tabler Residence Quad after an officer struck a female student on the sidewalk. (ANUSHA MOOKERJEE / THE STATESMAN)

A Stony Brook Police Department cruiser is removed from a ditch near the Tabler Residence Quad after an officer struck a female student on the sidewalk. (ANUSHA MOOKERJEE / THE STATESMAN)

A University Police car struck Stony Brook student Brianna Bifone on the sidewalk near the Tabler West Bus Stop on Circle Road at 10:12 p.m. on Thursday while responding to an emergency call, according to multiple sources close to the situation.

The car continued into an embankment, pinning Bifone beneath the rear of the vehicle.

“According to eyewitness reports, the responding vehicle was traveling with its emergency lights activated when it struck a sidewalk which caused it to veer onto the opposite walkway, subsequently striking the student pedestrian,” Chief of Police Robert Lenahan said in a statement.

Daniel Wolbrom, chief of Stony Brook Volunteer Ambulance Corps (SBVAC), said Bifone’s legs were pinned beneath the car for about 30 minutes before she was extricated and moved to an ambulance.

Both Bifone and the police officer were taken to Stony Brook University Hospital for evaluation.

Bifone is reported to be in fair condition, while the police officer, who sustained minor injuries, was treated and released from the hospital, Lenahan said.

The identity of the police officer has yet to be released.

The police officer was responding to a call regarding a “large group” at the Student Union when he struck the student, Assistant Chief of Police Lawrence Zacarese said.

The accident is currently under investigation, but Zacarese said there was no reason to believe the police officer was under the influence at the time of the incident.

The police officer radioed for assistance and emergency vehicles from University Police, Stony Brook Fire Department, Setauket Fire Department, SBVAC and Suffolk County Police Department arrived on the scene.

Check back for updates to the story.