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Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim fatally strikes man on interstate with his car

Police say Boeheim is cooperating with investigators and passed field sobriety tests.
Image: Jim Boeheim
Syracuse Orange head coach Jim Boeheim PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina on Feb. 13th, 2019.Jaylynn Nash / Icon Sportswire on AP

A car driven by Syracuse University men's basketball coach Jim Boeheim struck and killed a man on an interstate in central New York late Wednesday night, police said.

Jorge Jimenez, 51, was a passenger in a black Dodge Charger that crashed into a guardrail about 11:20 p.m. on Interstate 690 near Thompson Road in Syracuse, Syracuse police said.

He was out of the car, which had bounced back into traffic, when Boeheim,who was driving a GMC Acadia, struck him while trying to avoid the Charger, police said.

Jimenez was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Boeheim, 74 and a resident of nearby Fayetteville, and the other car's driver remained on the scene and are cooperating with investigators, police said. Both drivers passed field sobriety tests, officials said.

Snow and freezing rain fell on Syracuse for much of Wednesday, and Syracuse police Chief Kenton Buckner said the wet weather was likely a factor in the Dodge Charger's crash.

"I believe that the weather and the conditions played some role," Buckner told reporters Thursday night. "I believe that the victims' car hit some patch of ice."

The Charger was sitting perpendicular across the eastbound interstate, leaving just one open lane, police said.

And to make matter worse, eastbound traffic was coming over a hill, giving drivers only a few moments to see the crashed vehicle on the darkened road, officials said.

The basketball coach pulled over and used the flash light function on his cellphone to warn oncoming drivers to the crash ahead, authorities said.

"Mr. Boeheim did exactly what we'd expect him to do," Buckner said. "He was cooperative during our investigation both last night and today."

By early Thursday evening, Syracuse police had interviewed Boeheim and two of the three people from the Dodge, officials said.

The four people who were riding in the Dodge, between the ages of 49 and 58, did the right thing by getting out of the car, even if it led to one person dying, police said.

"I certainly understand their thought process which is if you remain in your vehicle in the middle of the roadway there's a strong likelihood you might be struck by another motor vehicle," said Syracuse police Lt. David Brown, a traffic investigator. "What we want people to do is try to get to an area of safety."

So far, no one has been ticketed or charged with any crime, police said. The investigation is ongoing, and police asked for any witnesses to this crash to call police.

“At this point ... it appears to be just a God-awful tragedy,” said Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick.

In a statement issued on Thursday morning, Boeheim said he and his wife, Juli, are mourning Jimenez's death.

"I am heartbroken that a member of our community died as the result of last night's accident," Boeheim said. "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."

Jimenez, an immigrant from Cuba, was out with friends to buy cigarettes when he was killed, his daughter Yurisandy Jimenez Arrastre told the Post-Standard newspaper.

“My father was a man who was very sociable, very happy. He loved to help everybody without question,” Arrastre told the newspaper in Spanish.

Hours before the deadly crash, Boeheim's team defeated Louisville, 69-49, at the Carrier Dome. He went out to dinner with family after the game and was driving home alone when the accident happened, according to Fitzpatrick.

The team's next game, Saturday against No. 1 Duke, is also at home.

"We are saddened by the death of a member of our Central New York community. On behalf of Chancellor Kent Syverud and the entire Syracuse University community, we extend our deepest condolences to all impacted by this tragic accident" Syracuse Athletic Director John Wildhack said in a statement.

Boeheim, who is in the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, has been at Syracuse for 43 years and has a career record of 944-378. His 2003 team won the NCAA championship.