A man crossing busy U.S. Highway 2 in Airway Heights is in critical condition after a water tanker truck slammed into the back of a car that had stopped to let the pedestrian pass.
Around noon Monday, Donald R. Stamback, 78, of Veradale, was crossing the highway after having activated amber lights that flash on signs meant to alert drivers that a pedestrian is crossing the road, the Washington State Patrol reported.
The driver of a red Pontiac Grand Am stopped to allow him to pass, but a water truck owned by Inland Asphalt slammed into the back of the car, which then smashed into Stamback. The impact sent him flying 10 feet, said Scott Lasher of the WSP.
Stamback was rushed to Sacred Heart Medical Center with severe head injuries. He was undergoing surgery and was listed in critical condition Monday evening and was transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
The driver of the water truck, Eric Weidemann, 24, was questioned and released, Lasher said. The driver and the passenger of the Grand Am were treated at the hospital for neck and back injuries and released.
Weidemann likely will be cited for failing to yield or for following too closely, Lasher said.
Pedestrian crosswalks in Airway Heights got a $120,000 boost in June 2002. Pedestrian-activated flashing amber lights were embedded in the roadway. Signs were added in 2003, alerting motorists to street-crossers. The lights blink for 37 seconds.
Airway Heights Police Chief Lee Bennett said that since he arrived at the department in May 2003, he has seen 10 accidents in the crosswalks.
Something needs to be changed, Bennett said. “The lights on the ground aren’t adequate,” he said.
The lights should change to red, be more visible, or a pedestrian overpass should be built, Bennett said. They’re all expensive options, but “how much is a life worth?” he asked.
Laurie Berger saw the accident Monday from her office window at Heights Realty. She said right after the accident, drivers from nearby Fairchild Air Force Base stopped their cars and tried to help.
“This happens a lot out here,” she said. She sees an accident or a near-miss at least once a month, Berger said. A stoplight or a more visible crosswalk system would help to keep problems down, she believes.
Monday’s accident was “absolutely the worst” Berger had seen, but she hopes that it “might make them do something” about the signals.
With so many people on the roads during the summer, the best thing drivers can do is be careful, Lasher said.
“We need to make sure we follow all pedestrian laws and follow at a safe distance,” he said.
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