Organizers of a relay run from Spokane to Sandpoint say there was little they could have done to prevent an accident that killed a Greenacres woman over the weekend.
The Saturday morning death cast a pall over the 3-year-old event that took 1,300 runners down Mount Spokane starting Friday morning and across three counties before ending Saturday in Sandpoint.
The accident killed Patricia A. Lambie, 46, who was riding a bicycle in support of a team member who was running when the two were struck by a van.
The team member, a 17-year-old girl, suffered a fracture in the accident and was treated at Kootenai Medical Center and released Saturday, said Ben Orth, a race director.
The teen, who is not related to Lambie, was on the same team as Lambie’s daughter, he said.
“They were doing everything right, and I feel horrible for that family,” Orth said Monday.
The fatality, the first for the event, came one day after a female participant was struck by a vehicle while crossing U.S. Highway 2 at Colbert Road in Spokane County. Robin Johnson, 44, of Spokane, suffered a broken leg and scrapes. She was cited for failure to yield to the car that hit her.
In Saturday’s incident, Idaho State Police arrested Bowdeen S. Kahuhu, 31, of Newport, on a charge of vehicular manslaughter in Lambie’s death, which occurred at 6:26 a.m. on state Highway 41 near Blanchard.
Kahuhu, who authorities believe was impaired, appeared in Idaho District Court in Bonner County on Monday and was ordered held on $50,000 bond.
Orth said relay participants had spotted the erratic driver prior to the accident and were trying to contact law officers by cell phone when the accident occurred.
Police said that Kahuhu drove her 1996 Plymouth Voyager van across the oncoming lane and fog line, striking the bicyclist and runner on the highway’s opposite shoulder.
“It could have been any one of us,” said relay participant Jeff Glidden. “It’s just a timing thing.”
Word of the accident spread quickly among participants, and, Glidden said, “It brought down the atmosphere on the course.
“It was just incredibly sad,” he said.
Orth said that in the wake of the Friday accident on Highway 2, relay organizers plan to start escorting participants across the four-lane highway.
Signs had been posted on Colbert Road just before U.S. 2 warning runners to cross with caution, Orth said.
“We are taking every single precaution we can,” he said.
The relay had acquired a series of permits from state and local agencies, and had notified fire districts in Spokane that the runners would be moving through the county.
Runners are provided a 65-page handbook that covers safety precautions. They are required to wear reflective vests and carry flashlights at night. Relay exchanges are made in parking lots at schools, churches, firehouses and other safe spots, Orth said.
A Fire District No. 4 spokesman said last week that the district had not been notified in advance of the relay, but Orth said he called the district in June, and that word of the run may not have gotten to firefighters on duty Friday morning.
Idaho State Police Lt. Chris Schenck said the relay appears to be managed with safety in mind, and that several law officers and firefighters are participants who would raise safety issues if there were any.
The relay began early Friday at Bear Creek Lodge on Mount Spokane. The course took participants west toward the Little Spokane River on its first leg.
The 185-mile route continued to Nine Mile Falls and up the Spokane River on the Centennial Trail to Coeur d’Alene. From there, it returned to the Huetter area and north to Silverwood Theme Park, Athol, Newport and Sandpoint.
Relay runners got a chance to ride the roller coaster at Silverwood between 11 p.m. and 2:30 a.m.
The relay is one of about a dozen such events in the country and is similar to the Mount Hood to Coast run in western Oregon. Two years ago, a teenager in that race was struck and injured by a car near Scappoose.
Glidden said the relay run should continue despite Saturday’s death.
He noted other events that have been marred by crime, such as the shooting incident at this year’s Hoopfest in Spokane.
“To cancel it, that’s ridiculous,” he said.
Orth said the relay will continue in future years.
“Our deepest condolences and prayers go out to the family and we grieve alongside them,” Orth said.