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Motorist hits wrong pedal, kills man in his front yard

Wed., Aug. 10, 2011

A driver with a learner’s permit apparently confused the gas pedal with the brake and struck and killed a man as he stood on his Spokane Valley lawn Tuesday afternoon.

The accident occurred on 32nd Avenue just west of the intersection with Glenn Road.

The victim was identified as Wes Abney, 48, who lived at the corner.

Spokane Valley police Detective Dave Thornburg said that Abney was in his yard about 1:20 p.m. when the driver, Claudia Salazar, lost control of her Ford SUV, which jumped the curb. Abney was apparently carried a short distance beneath the vehicle and died at the scene.

Investigators had to wait for the medical examiner before removing Abney while neighbors looked on.

“It looks like a new, inexperienced driver hit the wrong pedal,” Thornburg said. “He was in the wrong spot at the wrong time.”

Salazar had a licensed driver with her as required and two other occupants, including a small child and at least one family member.

She does not speak fluent English so a Spanish interpreter was brought to the scene to help interview her, Thornburg said.

Neighbor Michael Phelps said he was home when the accident occurred and heard another neighbor yelling for help. He described Abney as a helpful and friendly man with a reputation for clearing snow from the sidewalk in front of homes along the block.

“It’s really sad,” Phelps said.

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