Accident At Outlet Mall Kills Woman Workers Question Safety Of Crosswalks
A 19-year-old woman was killed Friday night when she was hit by a truck as she walked through a crosswalk at the Post Falls Factory Outlet mall.
Idaho State Police said it appears the truck driver did not see Shannon Wilhelm, a mall employee, as she made her way across the white-lined crosswalk on West Riverbend Avenue.
Although yellow warning signs mark each crossing, mall employees said Friday that drivers often don’t pay attention to the crosswalks between the north and south sides of the outlet mall.
Workers said there have been close calls in the past.
“My boss was in the middle of the crosswalk and somebody just about hit her,” said Lita Nagrone, an employee at Socks Galore.
“You see it all the time,” said Heather Findley of the L’eggs-Hanes-Bali outlet. “People don’t slow down.”
Jordan P. Tuthill, 54, of Coeur d’Alene was driving the truck that hit Wilhelm. He had not been cited for the accident as of early Friday evening.
ISP Cpl. Chris Schenck said he was still investigating the accident. However, he said it does not appear alcohol was involved or that Tuthill was speeding.
“He said he saw her at the last minute,” Schenck said.
West Riverbend Avenue runs between the north and south sides of the mall. White lines mark several pedestrian crossings between the two halves.
Wilhelm had worked at the Banister Shoe store on the north side of the mall for about two years, said Ken Chim, the store manager. She left the store for a break late Friday afternoon and headed across the street.
Patty Drapeau of Post Falls was driving behind Tuthill on West Riverbend when she saw his truck hit the woman at about 5 p.m.
Drapeau said the man was driving slow but didn’t appear to apply his brakes until after he struck the woman. Drapeau said it was hard to see because it was dark outside and Wilhelm was wearing dark clothing.
“I just saw her fly up in the air,” Drapeau said.
Jennifer Vanderwende, who was driving the opposite direction on her way home from work at the mall, thought Wilhelm was all right initially.
“She sat up and grabbed her leg and then fell back down,” Vanderwende said.
A woman came out of the mall diner and tried to give Wilhelm mouth to mouth resuscitation.
Wilhelm, the mother of a 1-year-old daughter, was pronounced dead at Kootenai Medical Center.
“She was a very nice person,” said Findley.
Mall employees said they believe flashing lights are needed to mark the pedestrian crossings.
Cliff Hayes, Post Falls police chief, said the City Council discussed the possibility of having some kind of flashing light or light-regulated crosswalks when the mall was developed. However, officials decided not to require the lights, Hayes said.
Ed Adamchak, mall property manager, said yellow pedestrian warning signs were installed to help alert drivers to the crossings.
“That just means fair game to drivers,” quipped one angry employee.
Christine Barrett, an employee at the Paper Factory, said it’s especially hard to see pedestrians when it gets dark.
“You can’t see until they’re right out in the street,” she said.
Despite the danger, Vanderwende said pedestrians are often very trusting that drivers will yield.
“Women with strollers think, ‘Well, I’m safe’ and walk right out,” she said.
Hayes and Adamchak said Friday’s accident was the first at the mall.
“It’s sad that it takes something like this to make everyone realize there’s a problem,” Findley said.