Syracuse police said Jorge Jimenez, 51, was one of four passengers in a Dodge Charger that apparently lost control on a patch of ice and collided with a guardrail shortly before midnight Wednesday on the eastbound side Interstate 690 in Syracuse.
Boeheim hit Jimenez with his GMC Acadia as he stood on the side of the road while trying to avoid hitting the vehicle. The Charger’s passengers were attempting to reach a median when Jimenez was struck. He was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. Another man in the vehicle suffered minor injuries.
“I am heartbroken that a member of our community died as a result of last night’s accident,” Boeheim said in a written statement. “(Boeheim’s wife) Juli and I extend our deepest sympathies to the Jimenez family. Out of respect for those involved, I will not be providing further comment at this time.”
Police said Boeheim has been cooperating with the investigation. They said the 74-year-old Hall of Fame coach used his cellphone light to warn other drivers of the road conditions.
“Frankly, it’s almost miraculous that we’re not talking about the death of Jim Boeheim,” Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick said. “Because he was speeding toward this black monolith sitting in the deepest, darkest portion of 690. We gotta put some lights in that area.”
Sobriety tests were administered to Boeheim and the unidentified driver of the Charger, police said. The tests came back negative for any intoxicants. Fitzpatrick said he has known Boeheim for 40 years and that he doesn’t drink.
“This story obviously is newsworthy because of the notoriety of the coach,” Fitzpatrick said. “But this is the loss of a human being. It was an accident in the purest sense of the word.”
Yurisandy Jimenez Arraste told the Syracuse Post-Standard her father was with his friends buying cigarettes when he was killed. She said he was a native of Cuba who lived in the United States for 20 years. She remembered him as a family man who loved to kick and tell jokes.
“My father was a man who was very sociable, very happy,” Jimenez Arraste said told the Post Standard in Spanish. “He loved to help everybody without question. He loved having friends.”
Fitzpatrick said Thursday night he spoke with Boeheim’s attorney who told him Boeheim wants to meet with Jimenez’s family.
“He immediately, through his attorney and through his wife Juli, he wanted to speak to the family,” Fitzpatrick said. “And because there’s a legal investigation going on there could be a law suit, it’s probably not a good idea right. But he wants the family to know he would do anything to undo what happened, and he’s just heartbroken.”
Fitzpatrick will ultimately decide whether or not Boeheim will face criminal charges. He and Syracuse Police Chief Kenton Bucker have said the investigation so far leads them to believe it was a “tragic accident”.
“It’s a just a terrible, unfortunate accident,” Fitzpatrick said. “We don’t yet know (exactly) what caused the initial accident. Coach Boeheim was not involved in that accident. The occupants of the vehicle, including the deceased, were wandering in the road.”
The accident occurred just hours after the unranked Orange defeated No. 18 Louisville 69-49 at the Carrier Dome. It is unclear whether or not Boeheim will coach Syracuse against No. 1 Duke Saturday night. ESPN’s College GameDay was originally scheduled to broadcast live from the Carrier Dome. The network decided Thursday to air GameDay from their headquarters in Bristol, Conn.
“We appreciate their concern for our community during this difficult time,” Syracuse athletic director John Wildhack said in a statement.
Wildhack also said the university sent its condolences to “all impacted by this tragic accident”. He said Boeheim met with his team Thursday but didn’t attend or participate in practice.
Boeheim has been the head coach at Syracuse, his alma mater, since 1976. He ranks second all-time in Division I in wins with 944, trailing only Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. He led the Orange to the 2003 national championship and five Final Four appearances.