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
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.