Fifth St. W. crosswalk has 3 fatals in 20 years
The intersection where an elderly pedestrian was struck and killed last week has the dubious distinction of being most fatal crosswalk in Sonoma.
According to accident reports, there have been a total six pedestrian fatalities, including last week’s, within the city in the past 20 years – the crosswalk on Fifth Street West at Studley Street across from Safeway has been the site of three of them.
The crosswalk on Fifth Street West at Studley Street across from Safeway is equipped with yellow flashers both on the ground an on sign at the intersection. There’s also an audible warning system that sounds. Eyewitnesses reported that all of these indicators were active last Thursday when a car struck and killed 93-year-old Alvin Hesse as he crossed the street on his three-wheeled motorized scooter on his way to Safeway.
Similarly, witnesses to a June 11, 2006, fatality at the very same intersection said Anna Marie Simmons, an 82-year-old great-grandmother, had pushed the button and triggered the lights before she stepped into the crosswalk.
And on Valentine’s Day 1996, Beatriz Villanueva, 51, died after being hit in the crosswalk at Studley Street by a 78-year-old driver.
“Something needs to be done,” Simmons’ granddaughter Theresa Gruenhagen wrote on Facebook after Hesse was killed. “A stop sign would be great or and pedestrian overhead sign. It’s very upsetting to hear that another person has died in that crosswalk and nothing has been done.”
Soon after the Hesse was hit, Sonoma Police Chief Bret Sackett pulled over a PT Cruiser with front-end damage that matched witnesses’ descriptions traveling east on Napa Road near Burndale Road.
When questioned, the driver, Joe Kwai Lee, 80, of Boyes Hot Springs, at first said he not been involved in an accident. During later questioning, Lee said he had run over something he suspected to be “debris” at the Fifth Street West crosswalk. He was booked into county jail for vehicular manslaughter, felony hit-and-run and driving on a suspended license.
Lee paid cash bail of $50,000 and was released Thursday. He is scheduled to appear in court Thursday, Nov. 15, at 8 a.m.
A little more than a week before this most recent fatal accident, two teens were injured while walking in a crosswalk on Fifth Street West just two blocks south of the Studley Street crossing when a 92-year-old driving southbound hit them.