Monday, Dec. 8, 2014 | 2 a.m.
A construction worker. A Swiss tourist. A high school senior. A grandmother. A bicyclist. A toddler.
All killed during a rash of deadly crashes on Southern Nevada roads.
Twenty people dead in 13 days — the deadliest period in Clark County this year.
“It seems to be an epidemic lately,” Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Chelsea Stuenkel said.
Six of the victims died within 21 hours. Another three died fewer than 24 hours later.
“There are a couple 24-hour periods where it’s like, ‘Holy crap — what are people doing?’” said Valerie Evans, an assistant highway safety coordinator for the state Office of Traffic Safety.
Why the spike? Law enforcement officials can’t cite a definitive reason but offer several possibilities: It gets darker earlier, meaning longer periods of reduced visibility; cooler weather makes people more inclined to walk outside; winter clothing tends to be darker; more vehicles are on the road as people scramble to prepare for the holidays; the holidays can be a distracting time.
Indeed, the holiday season traditionally is one of the most deadly. Alcohol use increases, more people travel, and drivers and pedestrians can be harried, tired and distracted.
More than 700 people nationally are expected to be injured or killed each day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day in drunken driving crashes, a rate two to three times higher than the rest of the year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Still, traffic fatalities are on the decline in Clark County. After 178 deaths last year, there were 154 as of Dec. 1, according to the Office of Traffic Safety. The 13-percent drop seems to suggest the county might finish the year with fewer people killed. Statewide, however, fatalities are up — 264 as of Dec. 1, compared with 248 during the same period last year. During all of 2013, 266 people died.
In the recent spate of crashes, many of the deaths resulted from avoidable mistakes: running a red light, failing to wear a seat belt, speeding, drinking, walking outside of crosswalks.
Authorities hope education, awareness and common sense among both motorists and pedestrians can help prevent a repeat of last month’s death toll.
“We want people to be respectful of each other on the roadways,” said Metro Police Sgt. Richard Strader, who investigates traffic deaths. “Just be safe. Don’t cause a hazard for someone else.”
Eighteen crashes took place Nov. 5 through Nov. 17 in Clark County, killing 20 people. Here’s what happened:
November 5 | 3:45 p.m., U.S. 95 near Summerlin Parkway, | Las Vegas Shi
A 2002 Toyota Rav4 was heading west on U.S. 95 when it veered onto the paved shoulder of an off-ramp, suddenly swung right and lost control. The SUV hit a wall, rotated and rolled over.
The driver’s son, 2-year-old Alden Shi, was thrown from the SUV and died. The driver and his 12-year-old daughter suffered minor injuries.
Nevada Highway Patrol officers said Alden was riding in a car seat that was improperly installed or fastened. His father was not charged.
Alden was a happy boy, full of curiosity, his family said. He loved playing with his parents, grandparents and sister, reading baby books, watching Teletubbies, typing on keyboards, speaking into a toy cellphone and repeating nursery songs, according to his obituary.
“He is now resting in heaven without any suffering,” his mother, Yanping Shi, wrote. “Through his short life he gave us much happy laughter for which we will be thankful forever. We will always remember him.”
Marlon Duane Collins
November 6 | 4:40 a.m. | East Sahara and South Eastern avenues | Las Vegas
Marlon Duane Collins, 57, of Las Vegas, was walking in a crosswalk on his way to work when a car went through a red light and struck him. Witnesses told investigators the vehicle appeared to be speeding and had its lights off, according to media reports.
Collins died at University Medical Center.
The dark-colored 2013 or 2014 Nissan Sentra left the scene, heading east on Sahara Avenue. Police have not located the vehicle or driver.
November 6 | 7:21 p.m. | East Lake Mead Boulevard and Bonnie Lane | Las Vegas
A 75-year-old man was crossing Lake Mead Boulevard in an intersection crosswalk when a sedan plowed into him.
The 1994 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera driven by 59-year-old Shana Williams took off, Metro police said, but witnesses followed the driver to a nearby neighborhood.
Williams failed a field sobriety test and was charged with driving under the influence and failure to stop at the scene of a crash. Police took her to the Clark County Detention Center, where she remains without bail.
The pedestrian, a Las Vegas resident whose identity has not been disclosed, was pronounced dead at the scene.
November 7 | 2 a.m. | West Warm Springs Road and Cebolla Street | Henderson
Construction flagger Marilyn Rouse, 49, was directing traffic dressed in bright, reflective clothing and using a wand light when a suspected drunken driver hit her in a construction zone.
Rouse, a general laborer with Laborers Union Local 872, died a short time later at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center.
Police said the driver of the 2009 Chevrolet Malibu that struck Rouse continued driving east on Warm Springs Road until other construction workers stopped the car.
The motorist, 21-year-old Selina Gonzalez-Gascon, was charged with felony DUI, felony hit-and-run, failure to stop and render aid, and disobeying a flagman in a construction zone.
November 8 | 6:45 p.m. | Green Valley Parkway and Sunset Road | Henderson
A Hyundai sedan heading south on Green Valley Parkway struck 72-year-old Janice Hutchison as she was crossing the street. She was pronounced dead at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center.
Witnesses told police Hutchison appeared to be crossing the busy street against the traffic signal. Authorities said speed and alcohol did not appear to be factors, and the 88-year-old driver was not charged.
Hutchison is survived by her son, daughter-in-law, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
“Janice was a gentle, loving soul who always put her family first before everything else in life,” her family wrote in her obituary. “If anyone had the chance to meet her, even for a minute, they would say the same.”
Michael Brandon Mattingly
3:40 a.m. | East Pebble Road and South Haviland Road | Las Vegas
Police say speed was a factor in the crash that killed Michael Brandon Mattingly.
Mattingly was driving east on East Pebble Road when he lost control of his Honda motorcycle and crashed into a tree and block wall. He died at the scene.
Mattingly was a lifelong Las Vegas resident who was working toward a software engineering career and enjoyed computers, motorcycles and shooting firearms, according to his obituary.
Mattingly’s mother, Joanne, described her son as a “super intelligent guy” with a friendly demeanor.
“He really accomplished a lot in his short time,” Joanne Mattingly said. “He was climbing rapidly in his career.”
November 10 | 2:30 a.m. | Spanish Ridge Avenue and South Riley Street | Las Vegas
Two 19-year-olds were street racing when their vehicles collided, killing one of them.
Michael Aviles was headed east on Spanish Ridge Avenue when he lost control of the 1998 Pontiac Firebird he was driving, causing the car to veer off the street, hit a block wall, return to the road and collide with a 1988 Honda CRX.
Aviles died at the scene. Police found the Honda unoccupied. The other driver, Francisco Alcaraz-Cruz, was charged with reckless driving and failure to stop at the scene of a crash.
Aviles was a 2013 graduate of Arbor View High School and was preparing to join the Marines. He made friends easily and was fiercely independent.
“Michael was a clever and gregarious person who always sought out the finest attributes in other people,” his obituary read. “It was as if Michael wanted to share all of their experiences, revel in their lives and celebrate their discoveries. Michael was tireless and had boundless enthusiasm.”
Angel Luis Ochoa Jr.
November 11 | 1:29 a.m. | Cliff Shadows Parkway and Novat Street | Las Vegas
Angel Luis Ochoa Jr. was making a U-turn in his pickup when he pulled into the path of a Kia. The impact threw Ochoa’s 2004 Dodge Dakota off Cliff Shadows Parkway and caused it to roll over a curb.
Ochoa, 22, died at the scene from blunt force head trauma. A 19-year-old female passenger in his truck was injured.
The 67-year-old driver of the Kia wasn’t injured or charged.
November 12 | 4:20 a.m. | Interstate 15 near Sahara Avenue | Las Vegas
Nevada Highway Patrol officers aren’t sure why Swiss native Florent Rudaz was walking on Interstate 15 near the Strip. There were no signs of a broken-down car nearby.
But Rudaz, 22, was in the middle of northbound I-15 when he was hit by a white Toyota Tundra. The impact threw him into another lane, where he was hit again by multiple vehicles. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The crash closed the northbound lanes for hours.
Noon | St. Rose Parkway and South Eastern Avenue | Henderson
Myrna Centeno, 69, died a week after the car she was riding in was hit by a driver running a red light.
Centeno was a passenger in a 2012 Nissan Rogue traveling east on St. Rose Parkway. A 34-year-old man driving a 2006 BMW ran a red light and turned in front of the Nissan, causing the Nissan to crash into his vehicle.
Centeno and the 70-year-old driver of the Nissan were taken to St. Rose Dominican Hospitals — Siena Campus. Centeno later was transferred to Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, where she died Nov. 19. The Nissan’s driver suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
The BMW driver was cited for failure to obey a steady red signal.
Friends described Centeno as “a true lady with a big heart and a cheerful spirit.”
Nov. 15 | 8:39 a.m. | U.S. 95 off-ramp at Martin Luther King Boulevard | Las Vegas
A 35-year-old motorcyclist was killed when a driver failed to yield to him at a freeway off-ramp.
Devon Spease, of Henderson, was riding his black Kawasaki motorcycle north on Martin Luther King Boulevard when a 1996 Honda Accord coming off U.S. 95 entered Martin Luther King Boulevard without yielding. The car drove directly into the path of Spease’s motorcycle.
Spease was thrown from his bike and pronounced dead at University Medical Center.
No charges have been filed against the driver of the Honda, 23-year-old Stephanie Delgado.
November 15 | 2 p.m. | South Eastern Avenue and Evansville Avenue | Henderson
Mario Regalado was taking a leisurely bike ride — much different from the 40- or 50-mile rides he frequently took to train for the long-distance charity races in which he competed — when a car switching lanes struck him from behind and sped off. He was taken to St. Rose Dominican Hospitals — Siena Campus, where he died.
Nicknamed “Super Mario,” Regalado, 43, was a member of Biking Las Vegas and the Cox Communications Cycling Team. He had been married only 27 days. He is survived by his wife, Melissa Moses, and his 7-year-old daughter, Bella.
Friends described Regalado as an easygoing, approachable guy who kept busy and supported the ones he loved.
“He always encouraged everyone to do better,” said Scott Rumbold, Regalado’s friend since 2008. “You never saw him mad — always happy.”
Henderson Police charged the driver with reckless driving and leaving the scene of a fatal crash.
November 15 | 10:48 p.m. | Sands Avenue and Howard Hughes Parkway | Las Vegas
Ruben Ruvalcaba, 35, of Las Vegas, tried to cross Sands Avenue at night in dark clothing outside of a crosswalk. The driver of a 2002 Cadillac Deville didn’t see him.
The car struck Ruvalcaba, who died a short time later at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center.
The 62-year-old driver remained on the scene and did not appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, police said.
November 16 | 12:30 a.m. | East Sahara Avenue and South Sloan Lane | Las Vegas
A Toyota Avalon filled with teenagers was driving at an extremely high rate of speed along Sahara Avenue when the driver lost control on a curve, causing the car to careen into a metal light pole, police said. The impact tore the passenger side of the car open.
The front passenger, 17-year-old Guadalupe Rodriguez, died at the scene. Two female backseat passengers, including a 13-year-old, were critically injured.
The driver, 18-year-old Tristan Hicks, left the scene, but was found near his home. Police said they believe fear caused Hicks to run; he did not appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. He was arrested in connection with fleeing the scene of a crash. Later the same week, Rodriguez’s friends and relatives filled a cul-de-sac near the girl’s grandmother’s house to sell tacos to raise money for a funeral. They smiled, remembering Rodriguez’s penchant for turning anything into a joke and walking into the house singing loudly.
“Chikita,” as they called her, was enjoying an evening with friends the night she died. It’s unclear where the group was headed.
“She’s going to be dearly missed,” said Norma Zamudio, Rodriguez’s mother. “She is with us. I know that.”
Rodriguez was a senior at Eldorado High School.
November 16 | 12:55 a.m. | South Maryland Parkway and East Canosa Avenue | Las Vegas
Jenny Chavez, 66, of Las Vegas, was walking across Maryland Parkway, north of St. Louis Avenue, when she was struck and killed by a 2002 Nissan Xterra. She wasn’t walking in a marked crosswalk.
The driver remained at the scene, where emergency medical workers declared Chavez dead.
November 16 | 4:25 a.m. | East Charleston Boulevard and Frank Street | Las Vegas
Star Walters, 33, was riding her blue bicycle in the right lane of eastbound Charleston Boulevard when a dark gray vehicle, possibly a Dodge Charger, struck her. She died at the scene.
The driver fled and has not been located.
Several weeks before her death, Walters gave her car to someone she felt needed it more, her longtime friend Tanya Shetayh said. Walters always tried to help people and animals in need, Shetayh said.
“I’ve never seen anybody as passionate as she was about rescuing animals,” she said.
Walters was “extremely artistic” and recently had gone back to school, Shetayh said.
Mark Boynton, Don Collins and Rodney Jensen
November 17 | 5:01 a.m. | 215 Beltway near North Fifth Street | North Las Vegas
Three men died in a fiery, two-car crash after one of the drivers overcorrected an error.
Mark Boynton, 56, of North Las Vegas, was driving a Mazda 6 when the vehicle drifted onto a dirt shoulder. Boynton overcorrected, causing the car to rotate across the highway and center median and hit a Cadillac Escalade traveling in the opposite direction, police said. The driver of the Cadillac was thrown from the vehicle, and the SUV burst into flames.
Boynton was killed, as were two men in the Cadillac — Donny Collins, 59, of Cedar City, Utah, and Rodney Jensen, 50, of Littlefield, Ariz.
Jensen was the cousin of controversial Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and was on his way to his construction job. Bundy’s wife, Carol, described him as a quiet man with a magnetic personality who loved hunting. He had three children.
“Everyone was a better person by being around him,” Bundy said. “I guess the heavenly father needs him.”
An obituary for Collins described him as a “real cowboy” who enjoyed spending time outdoors at his ranch in Caliente. He was married with three children.
“He loved spending time with his family and enjoyed teaching them to love the outdoors,” his obituary read.
A relative of Boynton declined to comment.
Lance Jeffery Horton
11:10 p.m. | Blue Diamond Road and South Decatur Boulevard | Las Vegas
A 52-year-old man was killed when his minivan slammed into the back of a semi-truck stopped at an intersection.
Troopers haven’t determined why Lance Jeffery Horton, of Henderson, failed to stop. They’re waiting for a medical examiner’s report to help determine whether Horton was impaired, distracted or suffered a medical episode. A highway patrol officer said there were no obvious signs to explain why Horton didn’t stop.
The driver of the semi-truck wasn’t injured.
Every 15 Minutes
The students walked past a crimson-stained peer lying motionless on the crumpled hood of a Ford Escort. Their chatter faded as they made their way to the bleachers, where parents armed with tissues sat waiting. Ba-bump, ba-bump, ba-bump came the sound of a heartbeat over speakers.
“Reports of one person ejected and several others injured,” a dispatcher radioed to officers in the field.
Police motorcycles, fire trucks and an ambulance arrived. A life-flight helicopter hovered overhead.
The gory scene outside Coronado High School was what police call a 401-B — a vehicle crash involving significant injuries or death. In this case, there were both.
Except it was all fictional.
The metallic gray Oldsmobile didn’t actually slam into the red Ford Escort. Two 17-year-olds didn’t really die, and their classmate wouldn’t spend years in prison for drunk driving.
The high school juniors and seniors were participating in the “Every 15 Minutes” program, meant to paint a realistic picture of the consequences of impaired driving and hopefully teach teens to make better choices.
Last year, 79 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes in Nevada, according to the Office of Traffic Safety.
“Tomorrow life will go back to normal for most,” a narrator said. “But not for those affected. Their lives will never be the same.”
The Henderson Police Department held the first Every 15 Minutes program in May 2001 at Foothill High School. Since then, more than 40,000 local students have taken part.
“We try to make this as realistic as possible in the hopes that they see the reality of what goes on,” Henderson Police Officer Russell Adams said. “If we have at least one person who decides to make a change, then we save a life and the whole program is worth it.”
The average cost of a first-time DUI conviction in Nevada is about $10,000, including court and legal fees, license reinstatement, mandatory classes, loss of income and increased insurance rates.
Makes a $60 cab ride home not seem so bad, right?
Car seat checks
Safe Kids Clark County runs free car seat checks around the valley throughout the year. Visit safekidsclarkcounty.org for information.
In a crash, a person without a seat belt in a vehicle traveling 55 mph will fly forward with a force of 3,000 pounds, equivalent to a knockout punch by a professional boxer or the bite of a Tyrannosaurus rex. When a vehicle stops suddenly, anything unrestrained — including people -— continue moving at the original speed until it slams into a hard surface, such as a windshield, steering wheel or seat.
Seat belts — both the shoulder strap and lap belt, which should fit snuggly against the body — transfer the impact of a collision to a person’s hip and shoulder bones, which can handle the pressure.
“Wearing (a seat belt) will more than double your chance of survival in a crash,” Trooper Chelsea Stuenkel said. “It’s a myth that it causes injury.”
Timeline of traffic fatalities
Click to enlarge
Arizona and California transportation death information from Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. All other data from Metro Police and the Nevada Department of Public Safety.