In hit-and-run accident, unidentified motorist hits, kills pets in crosswalk

March 20, 2012

By Greg Farrar

Neighbors unite to comfort owner, make area safer

Troy Scholzen mourns March 15 next to the neighborhood memorial to his dogs Yogi and Jake at the crosswalk where they were killed. Below, a memorial to Yogi and Jake on Newport Way Northwest grows. By Greg Farrar

Somewhere is the hit-and-run driver of a vehicle that upended an Issaquah man’s life last week.

The driver killed two service dogs, who were on a leash in a crosswalk with the signal blinking. Their owner barely escaped serious injury.

“It was my life. They made me happy,” said Troy Scholzen, a resident of Northwest Oak Crest Drive who was walking his dogs at 7:30 a.m. March 12 along Northwest Newport Way.

After activating the LED lights on the crosswalk sign, he started across the street and eastbound traffic stopped. Before he knew it, in the westbound lane, “I was in the path of the truck and in its headlights, and I jumped out of the way. It had a big chrome grill on the front, and that’s all I really saw.”

His neighbors have closed ranks around him. Bouquets of flowers have been left at a growing memorial at the corner of Northwest Oak Crest Drive and Newport Way Northwest.

Those neighbors are angry that a number of improvements obtained through a decade of lobbying were not enough to make sure that the crosswalk is safe.

“40 mph SLOW DOWN!! YIELD!!! Next time it could be your CHILD or FRIEND,” says a neighbor’s homemade sign beside the memorial to Scholzen’s pets, 9-year-old Chihuahua-corgi mix Yogi and 6-year-old Chihuahua Jake. He rescued both from a dog pound when he lived in San Francisco.

“Both of them were service animals for me for anxiety and depression,” Scholzen said. “Just being with them was very relaxing and loving.”

Conflicting vehicle descriptions

Issaquah police officer Dustin Huberdeau responded to the accident. The roads were wet and it was getting light outside. A witness in an eastbound car who stopped said he thought the vehicle was a white sedan, not a truck.

“With such a discrepancy between the two vehicles, at such polar opposites, there’s not a lot to go on,” Huberdeau said.

Get involved

Call the Issaquah Police Department at 837-3200 with information about the March 12 hit-and-run accident.

“If the driver stopped, it would be a traffic infraction,” he said. “It would be called ‘fail to stop for pedestrian crosswalk,’ he would be issued an infraction, the fine would be $124, and it would be a civil issue between the driver and the pet owner.

“In the scenario where the driver took off, if we were to locate who the driver was, he or she would be charged with criminal hit and run and property damage, a misdemeanor. He or she made it from a civil infraction to a criminal issue.”

Huberdeau was in one of two squad cars that responded to the scene; two other officers did area checks.

“We looked for any vehicle that was pulled over, more witnesses or more evidence of what kind of car it was,” Huberdeau said. “I wish we had more information for it, but unfortunately we don’t.”

Owner was ‘absolutely devastated’

Scholzen took his deceased pets to Issaquah Veterinary Hospital for cremation.

“They were probably killed instantly, judging by the injuries,” veterinarian Kim Rice said.

One had a fractured back and the other suffered massive head trauma. Yogi had been in the previous Friday for a teeth cleaning.

“A week prior [to the cleaning] they were both in for an examination, and we decided Yogi needed it,” Rice said.

“He treated them like his children. It was like the best care they could get, the best food, they went out for walks, and he took excellent medical care of them.”

Scholzen “was devastated, he was shaking all over and he was absolutely devastated,” Rice said. “I gave him a hug and he was just limp.”

The crosswalk is beside an Issaquah School District bus stop. According to Jo Porter, district director of transportation, buses make three morning, one mid-day and three evening stops there to pick up and drop off students for Issaquah High School, Pacific Cascade Middle School and Sunset Elementary School.

Bus driver Mary Lynch lives on the same street as Scholzen.

“We’ve tried over 10 years to slow speeds down, and I don’t know how many citizens have been rear-ended.” she said. According to Lynch, the radar sign trailer on the busy road a short distance west of state Route 900 often indicates cars going 50 in the 40 mph zone. “Too many people are using this stretch of Newport as a high-speed bypass.”

Citizens request action

Hart Sugarman, another Northwest Oak Crest Drive resident, filed a citizen action request with the city March 15.

“Traffic speed is too high (40 mph), and pedestrian crossing signs are inadequate,” he wrote, requesting reducing the speed limit to 30 mph, using brighter LED lights and illuminating crossing signs in each direction.

“A number of children, who live in our Summerhill subdivision, use this crosswalk, and may not have the intuitive response or quick evasive action, in the event of a car neglecting to stop,” he wrote in an email to Mayor Ava Frisinger.

“This was a horrible tragedy,” said Frisinger, who added that an additional email to her was being also treated as a second action request. “They are being processed by Public Works Engineering and we’ve sent copies to the police department.”

Additional ways to make the crosswalk even more visible will be explored, the date of the last speed survey will be reviewed and “if needed, we will do another one to document what speed should be posted,” she said.

“This is a personal observation,” she added. “There are always people who will break the law, and we do everything absolutely possible to minimize that, but we can’t prevent it.”

People on cellphones drive through the crosswalk in front of City Hall “as if there’s no crosswalk there,” she said.

As for the driver leaving the scene, Frisinger said, “It’s reprehensible.”

That the hit-and-run driver has not been apprehended is “too bad,” Rice said. “It wouldn’t be justice for what happened, but it would be nice for the person who did this to be punished somewhat. Around here, we view it like a murder.

“It’s absolutely tragic. There’s not enough unconditional love in the world, so people are turning to their pets.”

Greg Farrar: 392-6434, ext. 235, or gfarrar@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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Comments

8 Responses to “In hit-and-run accident, unidentified motorist hits, kills pets in crosswalk”

  1. Ron Melancon on March 21st, 2012 4:05 am

    At least your area is addressing….Henrico County Police never enforce our speeders or stop sign blow through. They have told me personally to go to He double hockey sticks.

  2. kate on March 21st, 2012 11:27 am

    We’ve long had speeding issues here too…It may put the rest of us out but I’ve always wanted extremely tall speed bumps, close enough together that you could not gain any speed. Other streets I’ve seen in Seattle have them, and also have a kind of curbing maze system where you need to go slow to navigate them.

    I give my heartfelt condolences to Mr. Scholzen for the horrible loss of his little Yogi and little Jake. My heart breaks with yours. Bless you and may you find a way to peace.

    Kate xxxx

  3. Mike on March 21st, 2012 1:23 pm

    How very sad. It’s unfortunate that the City of Issaquah has never addressed all the complaints and then this has to happen. The Mayor seems very dismissive of the whole thing. Yes, people will break the law, but do what you can to help – lower the speed limit – rather than saying “well, they text in front of city hall”. How cold.

  4. Funny How A $124 Ticket Can Change Behavior: Redo | Tuesdays with Deborah on March 22nd, 2012 9:29 am

    [...] in our local paper I found out about that shrine. In the early morning when that road is typically very busy with [...]

  5. Steve on March 23rd, 2012 2:48 pm

    I’m certain I’ll be called heartless for asking this, but isn’t there a bit of onus on a person (or “service dogs”, for that matter) be wary when crossing, even in a crosswalk? I’m forever amazed at how PNW natives are conditioned by this Utopia to entrust their lives to some invisible barrier of vehicular protection afforded by white paint.

  6. Mike on March 24th, 2012 9:25 am

    Steve,

    I wouldn’t say you were heartless, but when somebody is in a marked crosswalk, with flashing lights, and traffic already stopped on one side, you don’t always expect to be plowed down by people who don’t care. You have to admit, this driver didn’t even stop, so did not care about the life of this person or these animals. Have you ever had to jump out of the way of a vehicle? Has another car ever hit yours? If not, you are lucky, but if you have – then you should know that you can do whatever you can to be safe, but when people don’t care, bad things happen. All we can do is try and make things safer, like lowering speed limits where sightlines are bad and hope for more responsibiliy from those who are reckless and only care about where they are going and how quickly they can get there.

  7. Sally on March 24th, 2012 4:36 pm

    My heart goes out to Mr. Scholzen at the loss of his beloved pets. There are no words to express what I think of the person who killed the dogs and drove off. But Issaquah has never had control of the traffic. Look at those 6000+ tickets issued by the traffic sensor on 2nd Ave S. Down my street one walks behind an 8 inch white line on two to four feet of asphalt. Cars travel 10, 20, 30 miles over the 35 mph speed limit. They can text, tweet, talk on their cell, shout at their kids and on occasion low very bright sports cars can start at the top and see how fast they get to 70. If they want risk, try taking the two jogs. All of this without being encumbered by police, speed humps or even a solar speed indicator. The city has had various reasons over the years, but recently it has been, “nobody has been killed up there.”
    This man lost is beloved dogs, he may not think so, in his grief, but he is lucky to be alive. My heartfelt sympathy

  8. Sally on March 24th, 2012 11:57 pm

    typo. Speed om my street from start to finish is 25 not 35 mph.

    I know this gentleman is going to have nightmares over the death of his dog “kids” for a very long time. My heart goes out to him. I am also greatful that Dr. Rice reached out to him in such a compassionate way.

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