Press-Republican

March 4, 2014

Peru native dies in Fla. car/motorcycle crash

By SUZANNE MOORE, News Editor
Press-Republican

---- — PERU — Benjamin Pirofsky lost his life in a Florida traffic crash Friday that has created a furor in that state and beyond. 

There is outrage because the woman who pulled out in front of the Peru native’s motorcycle, according to authorities, was driving drunk, fled after the crash and tried to hide evidence of the crime.

And then there is a sense of wonder at the actions of a good Samaritan that resulted in Nadia Verdoni, the alleged driver of the car, being identified quickly and taken into custody.

WITNESS CHASES CAR

Pirofsky, 30, was riding his motorcycle southward on North Federal Highway in Pompano Beach, Fla., at about 9:36 p.m. as Verdoni, heading north in a Ford sport utility vehicle, attempted to turn onto Northeast 4th Street, according to the Broward Sheriff’s Department.

Pirofsky had a green light, witness Thomas Stanley told authorities, and as the Ford cut in front of the bike, he tried to brake, “causing his motorcycle’s rear to come up and rotate counterclockwise, striking the vehicle.”

Pirofsky was killed when he was thrown from the bike.

Stanley told authorities he watched the Ford slow then accelerate, turning left after a few blocks.

And he followed, pulling over when the other car did.

“You hit someone,” Stanley told Verdoni, according to the statement he gave the Sheriff’s Department.

He said she denied doing so and refused when he tried to get her to return to the crash site and talk to police. So he snapped a picture of her license plate.

DUI MANSLAUGHTER CHARGE

A sheriff’s deputy who went to the address Stanley had provided found Verdoni beside a vehicle that was badly dented, with her car keys in one hand and a gray tarp in the other, according to the arrest form.

“(She) was attempting to cover the vehicle with the tarp to hide the damage,” the report said. “There was a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from her breath, (she had) bloodshot eyes.”

Verdoni was unsteady on her feet and moving lethargically as well, it said.

“Sorry, I’m not a bad person,” the woman told the officer, according to the report. “I didn’t mean to. I was turning left, and he ran into me.

“Is he dead?” she asked.

Verdoni was charged with DUI manslaughter, leaving the scene involving death and tampering with evidence, as well as failure to yield right of way.

‘ADORED HIS DOG’

Pirofsky, a Peru Central School graduate, was living with his aunt and uncle, Deborah and Robert Ogust, in Coral Springs, Fla., as he transitioned from one apartment to another.

Saturday, he would have completed the move, his brother, Sam Pirofsky, of Peru said.

And he would have brought along his dog, Tyson, a boxer he’d brought into his life as a puppy.

That was 11 years or so ago, when Benjamin was a student at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

“He took that dog everywhere,” Sam said. “When he moved to Fort Meyers, he took the dog. When he moved to Fort Lauderdale, he took the dog.”

Tyson is in the care of their aunt in Coral Springs, he said Monday.

“I guess that’s where he’ll be staying.”

‘A SHINING LIGHT’

In Pompano Beach, Benjamin was finance manager for Vista Volkswagen.

“He was a shining light here,” William Howard, a sales manager at the car dealership, told the Press-Republican on Monday. “He was just very easy to get along with — he was very fun-loving, smiled all the time.

“A really good fella.”

Benjamin was also stellar at his job, Howard said.

“He really knew his business very well.”

On Saturday, when word came of the finance manager’s death, some of his coworkers were so upset they had to go home, Howard said.

“It’s a great loss to our company and our interpersonal relationships within the dealership,” he said.

“We’re sort of a big family.”

By Monday afternoon, Howard, as appointed spokesperson for the car dealership, had appeared on a couple of television news shows and had given other interviews about Benjamin.

“The news is really cranked up about this event down here,” he said.

It disturbed him that Verdoni had already made bail.

“That’s outrageous,” he said.

Sam, too, gave a number of interviews about the crash and Stanley’s decision to follow the car that had, he believed, caused it.

“He didn’t know who was in that car,” he told the Press-Republican, “what kind of danger he was going to put himself in.

“But he knew he was right” to tail it.

Stanley, asked by the Sun Sentinel in Pompano Beach why he took off after the Ford, said, “I thought, ‘You did wrong. Pay for your crime.’”

That the arrest happened, and so immediately, Sam said, makes him feel that the person responsible will pay for his brother’s death.

“(It’s) one small ray of sunshine in this whole thing.”

‘ALWAYS SMILED’

Benjamin was all about sunshine.

“Things were good or things were bad, he always had a smile on his face,” Sam said.

“He had a zest for life and a marvelous sense of humor,” the family penned in Benjamin’s obituary. “He also enjoyed riding his motorcycle and golfing, but his true love was caring for his canine companion, Tyson.”

Benjamin was a big sports fan, as well.

“Even being in Florida, he was still a Yankees and Giants fan,” Sam said.

“He changed states, but he didn’t change teams.”

Benjamin also leaves his father and stepmother, Howard and Maureen Pirofsky of Peru; his mother and stepfather, Katherine and Gene Kelenski of Beaufort, S.C.; a sister, three stepsisters and many other relatives.

A memorial service will take place at 3 p.m. Friday, March 7, at the Hamilton Funeral Home, 294 Mannix Road, Peru.

Donations in his memory may be made to Elmore SPCA, P.O. Box 686, Peru, NY 12972.

Email Suzanne Moore:smoore@pressrepublican.comTwitter: @editorSuzanne