HAMBURG, N.Y. (WIVB) - A man lost his life at a busy roundabout in Hamburg last month.
"His truck hit the rocks that they're now removing, and the truck started on fire and he burned to death," said Renee Wall, talking about the death of her brother, 54-year-old Kenneth Braun, a local businessman.
Braun was traveling on South Park Avenue when his pickup truck collided with the rocks in the center of the roundabout. "I'm just going to miss him. I already do. It's just so hard. I'm so happy they're taking these things down. But nothing's going to bring him back," said Wall.
Family members of Braun gathered at the scene Friday. They watched as crews removed the rocks from the roundabout. "The fact that they're removing the rocks today obviously they weren't safe," a tearful Wall told News 4.
The roundabout project was done by the New York State Department of Transportation. "[We] probably won't put the rocks back, but not because it's unsafe," Acting DOT Regional Director Darrell Kaminski says. "We don't feel it was an inappropriate design."
Kamisnki tells News 4 that the rocks were removed because contractors needed to get in there to repair damage done to the concrete.
Motorists who travel through the intersection at South Park and Big Tree have some strong feelings about the decorative rocks.
"They should have been gone a long time ago. They should have never been put in there in the first place," Laura Podkulski says. "Never, ever should have been put in there. There are more attractive things that they could have put in that median."
Kaminski says something will need to be put back, like fencing or construction barrels in the short-term. He suggests that a possible permanent replacement in the spring might include shrubs or fiberglass rocks, saying, "We're looking into that."
The rocks have not been everyone's favorite decoration.
"It's cumbersome. You can't see around them. You can't follow the traffic, and as far as the speed limit, it's too fast," says Tom Jasinski, a frequent traveler of South Park Avenue.
The intersection is busy, and some residents are concerned about the speed limit.
"The 45 mile per hour speed limit is way too fast," according to Hamburg resident Lalaine Podkulski. Although, there are signs before the roundabout cautioning motorists to slow down to 15 mph. Critics say the signs don't give motorists enough time to prepare. "You have to be right on top of the roundabout to see that," Podkulski says.
As crews loaded the rocks onto a waiting waiting truck Friday, Renee Wall and her family couldn't help but wonder why now. "We're happy the rocks are removed. They were ridiculous. We know the people in the town didn't want it. But obviously they weren't safe. I mean they removed them on their own," Wall told us.
Darrell Kaminski of the State Department of Transportation says the rocks were designed with safety in mind. "We're comfortable with the design," he says.
There are still lots of questions about what caused Kenneth Braun's vehicle to crash into the middle of the roundabout. Hamburg Police are still investigating.
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