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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: pedestrians

City’s risk management plan under fire

The City of Spokane may sever its contract with its risk management firm following allegations that the firm pressured police and a city employee to hide potentially incriminating details surrounding a 2010 collision that paralyzed a pedestrian.

According to documents obtained by lawyers representing the paralyzed woman, the city’s contracted insurance adjusters were able to influence the removal of certain details from the official press release about the crash, and reportedly sought to influence the police investigation.

The adjusters, in fact, were able to interview crash witnesses before the investigating officer, who was later advised that “if you guys want a raise” he should work with the risk managers to save the city some money, the documents show.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Emphasis patrol follows weekend crashes

Crashes that hurt one man and killed another in Spokane last weekend occurred as local authorities are working to emphasize pedestrian safety to motorists.

Emphasis patrols Tuesday and next month in Cheney are part of an ongoing effort in Spokane County to reduce the number of pedestrians injured or killed by motorists each year.

But police say two motorists arrested on felony charges this weekend did more than just fail to yield the right of way.

Read the rest of my story here.

Woman gets 30 days for fatal DUI crash

A motorist who accidentally hit and killed a close friend on the Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation after dropping him off following a night of drinking avoided prison when she was sentenced in U.S. District Court recently.

 Andrea M. George, 19, will spend 30 days in jail, six months in a halfway house and be on home confinement under a sentence imposed in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene, where she pleaded guilty in July to involuntary manslaughter.

George is to  complete 80 hours of community service and pay $3,000 in restitution. Her license will be suspended for a year.

George had a blood-alcohol level of .151 after the April 19, 2010, crash on Desmet Road at Ajot Road that killed Patrick A. Gourneau, 22, of Tensed, Idaho.

George had let Gourneau out of the car after an argument and was returning to him when she struck him while cresting a hill in a 2002 Honda Civic on Desmet Road just before 6 a.m.

George was airlifted to a Spokane hospital and has undergone several surgeries, according to court documents.
“Andrea often comments that she wishes it was her that had been killed in the accident,” according to a sentencing memorandum prepared by her lawyer, Jim Siebe. “…Andrea cannot remember anything about the accident, which has caused significant nightmares and distress, as her mind naturally tries to fill in the blanks for an event for which she has no memory.”

George is enrolled at North Idaho College and wants to open a bakery, according to the memorandum.
Prosecutors called for George to be sentenced to 30 months in prison, but Siebe said that wasn't necessary.

“Without question, Andrea can do more outside of prison to foster/engender public awareness of the perils of drinking and driving,” according to the memo. “She can show by example that someone can pull herself up by the bootstraps, so to speak, and change a life of unemployment/alcohol abuse to gainful employment, education and productivity.”

George was sentenced Sept. 7.

Officer typed message just before crash

A Spokane police officer who hit and killed an intoxicated pedestrian in his patrol car in January was typing a message into his onboard computer just before the crash.

Officer Gordon Ennis (left) told investigators he sent the message to another officer just before he struck John A. Van Curler (right) at West Montgomery Avenue while southbound on North Monroe Street on Jan. 30.

That detail was released publicly for the first time in a report this month from Spokane police Ombudsman Tim Burns, who concluded that inattentive driving was a factor in the tragedy but agreed with prosecutors that no charges against Ennis were warranted.

Prosecutors were aware of the text message when evaluating the case.

Burns called the crash “just one of those regrettable situations.”

“This officer’s going to have to live with that the rest of his life as well, and that’s a hard thing to live with, I suspect,” Burns said.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage: Feb. 12: Vehicular homicide standards high

Driver who killed pedestrian pleads guilty

A motorist who killed a pedestrian while drunk on the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation last year has pleaded guilty.

 Andrea M. George, 19, faces up to eight years in prison, a $250,000 fine and no more than three years probation for the April 19, 2010, crash on Desmet Road at Ajot Road that killed Patrick A. Gourneau, 22, of Tensed, Idaho.

Gourneau was walking when George struck him while cresting a hill in a 2002 Honda Civic on Desmet Road just before 6 a.m.

George was airlifted to a Spokane hospital but has since recovered. She was indicted by a grand jury for involuntary manslaughter in November.

She's to be sentenced Sept. 7 in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene.

Woman cited for hit and run in Valley

A Spokane Valley woman told police she was distracted by her 5-year-old son when she hit a pedestrian Saturday, then fled “because she was confused and scared,” police said today.

The man who was hit was sore but not injured, police said.

Wendy E. Berg, 32, was arrested after police located her truck at 11900 E. Broadway Ave. A witness said he was stopped at Pines Road and Broadway Avenue when he saw the the truck hit the pedestrian, then drive away on Pines.

Berg told police “she slammed on the brakes, but panicked when she knocked the man down,” according to a news release. “She said she drove home in a circuitous route because she was confused and scared”

Berg was cited and released.

Probe continues into pedestrian crash

For a vehicular homicide charge to be filed against a Spokane police officer who hit and killed a pedestrian last month, investigators must show that he was intoxicated, driving recklessly or driving with a flagrant disregard for the safety of others, according to Washington law. 

Authorities said this week that Officer Gordon Ennis, an eight-year veteran, was driving between 34 mph and 39 mph in a 30 mph zone without his emergency lights and siren on when he struck John A. Van Curler, 52, at Monroe Street and Montgomery Avenue on Jan. 30.

Toxicology results from a blood-alcohol sample submitted by Ennis are pending. 

High speed can be a factor in vehicular homicide charging decisions, but Ennis was driving just slightly over the speed limit.

“Is 34 to 39 driving down Monroe a willful or wanton disregard for life? No. That’s the average speed on Monroe,” said Spokane County sheriff’s Detective Dave Thornburg, who is investigating the incident with a team from the Sheriff’s Office, Spokane Police Department and Washington State Patrol. “It’s not that I’m a fellow officer and I want to protect him. If we had probable cause that night, we would have made an arrest.”

On June 10, a pizza delivery driver who was slightly speeding ran a stop sign and crashed into another vehicle, killing a 9-year-girl; the driver received a $500 ticket for negligent driving.

Read my full story here.

Past coverage:

Feb. 3: Officer in fatal crash to return to patrol

Officer in fatal crash to return to patrol

The Spokane police officer involved in fatal collision with a pedestrian Sunday is scheduled to return to full patrol duty.

The officer, identified Wednesday as Gordon Ennis, an eight-year veteran, has been interviewed by investigators and is scheduled to return to full patrol duty. He provided a blood sample the night of the crash, which killed John A. Van Curler, 52.

Investigators have not said if Ennis was driving with his lights or siren on, or at what speed, when he hit Van Curler at or near the intersection of North Monroe Street and West Montgomery Avenue about 10:30 p.m.

  Ennis was responding to a report of trouble unknown at a home on West Spofford Avenue.

Van Curler (left) was born in Spokane and graduated from Shadle Park High School. He worked for years at Inland Empire Plating and had recently been living with his stepmother and collecting cans to exchange for cash, family said.

His brother, Jdon Van Curler, said the man battled alcoholism.

“Our heart goes out to the officer that was involved, because it obviously was not intentional or malicious,” Van Curler said. “It’s a terrible tragedy.”

The case is being handled by a team of investigators from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, Spokane Police Department and the Washington State Patrol.

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