An 84-year-old Spokane man, suffering a fatal heart attack, lost control of his car on the North Division bridge Sunday while his wife watched from the passenger seat.
Guy Butler was pronounced dead at Deaconess Medical Center shortly after the accident.
His wife, Helen, was not injured.
About 2:20 p.m., the 1990 Buick swerved across two lanes of traffic, brushed the bumper of another car and twice struck the guardrail on the bridge’s east side, police and witnesses said.
“The railing kind of protected him, or he might have ended up in the water,” said Pat Barclay, a musician who witnessed the accident while taking a cigarette break behind Cavanaugh’s River Inn.
At the north end of the bridge, the burgundy sedan jumped a curb and rumbled wildly through the hotel’s parking lot.
The car squashed a half-dozen shrubs, uprooted a buried electrical box and sheared metal supports from the base of the 50-foot-high Cavanaugh’s sign.
Damage to the sign was estimated at $10,000, but hotel manager Mark Mundel said it could have been a lot worse.
The out-of-control car missed the sign’s reinforced steel base by about a foot, he said.
The car’s fuel tank was ruptured, spilling gasoline onto the sidewalk and hotel entrance.
Police used cat litter to soak up the fuel.
A pair of Cavanaugh’s employees tried unsuccessfully to revive Guy Butler before an ambulance arrived.
The Butlers split their time between a home in Hope, Idaho, and a South Hill retirement center condominium.
Rockwood Lane Retirement Community residents described Guy Butler as a gentle, friendly man.
He had respiratory and other medical problems which required a hospital stay last year.