Written by Staff Writer by Anna Gorman, CNN
“We heard the car, our ears were popping, and our bodies were shaking,” recalls James Chapman. “We thought we were going to die.”
Chapman and his friend Bob Long were marching in a Hyde Park parade for Homecoming week when, they say, a pickup truck swerved into the crowd, knocking over as many as 75 people to the ground. The white Ford Escape finally stopped after it came to a stop head on with the front end on top of another car.
When asked what he saw, Chapman tells CNN Travel, “It was zooming. We had absolutely no chance to react.”
This week, authorities have announced the driver, 21-year-old Erin Merryn, is facing 20 felony charges including multiple counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of an accident. She’s also been charged with driving under the influence, police said Tuesday. CNN has reached out to Merryn’s attorney for comment.
Looking back on the horrific incident, Chapman says he’s bracing for the possibility that Merryn — who remains in custody — might not receive a real punishment.
“When I think about it, people never get punished for things that they do,” he says. “That could happen.”
Chapman, a student at New York’s Baruch College, continues to remember how the incident has affected his life. He’s boycotting the homecoming parade this year out of respect for the victims.
Myryn surrendered to police on Saturday morning, a day after the crash.
“When I walk through the door I’ll be thinking of them,” Chapman says. “I just can’t get it out of my head. It’s going to be a year before that number is removed.”
The number 25 — the same number that includes Molly Schuyler, a Westchester woman whose hometown says was killed and whose family say has been a lifelong dedicated to the parade, her high school, and homecoming — has been especially hard to deal with.
“That was horrible to say the least,” Chapman says. “Now I think about it every single day and I realize that it could have been anyone.”
Chapman and Long — also a student at Baruch College — are still dealing with the emotional scars.
“We thought that everything was going to be OK and that we were going to continue on with our lives,” Long says. “Everyone was hugging. Everyone was happy, dancing, doing what they do.”
But as the floats and cars continued through the parade route, they noticed the anxiety in the air.
“I turned to Bob, who was looking around, and I was crying,” Chapman says. “It wasn’t funny anymore.”
As the parade wrapped up, the two friends walked to a fire station to wait for the paramedics to treat their injured friends. Then they knew there was trouble.
“It just looked like a car accident with bodies on the ground,” Long says. “The ambulance was parked and they were applying tourniquets and white tape everywhere. The first responders were working on these people. We looked around and saw the same people that were on the ground crying.”