By Katie Davern
At 7:56 p.m. on Tuesday, March 31, three University of Dallas seniors began crossing the street between PDK Foods and campus. At 7:57 p.m., students reported hearing a loud screech. Two students’ bodies lay in the street. At 7:58 p.m., a call was placed to 911.
Seniors Tori Howell, Laura Jauregui and Sally Krutzig, who are roommates, were walking across East Northgate Drive from their Tower Village apartment to campus by way of the crosswalk on their way to an Astronomy night quiz. They made it safely across the first section of the street, but as they approached the second section, they noticed a white van coming. All three said they believed it was far enough away for them to cross safely.
“I saw the van down the road, but he was too far away to be of any consequence,” Howell said. “It felt like he came out of nowhere. If he’d been close enough to hit us, we wouldn’t have crossed the street.”
Howell and Krutzig said they believe the driver was speeding to have reached them so quickly. Krutzig managed to jump out of the van’s path before it hit.
“I am usually pretty careful on that road,” Krutzig explained. “So I was watching it out of the corner of my eye. At the last second, I sensed how fast it was coming and that it wasn’t going to stop.”
Howell and Jauregui were not so fortunate. Both were hit by the incoming van.
“It happened so fast,” Krutzig said. “I just remember suddenly seeing the van speeding away and Tori and Laura both on the ground. I ran over and checked to make sure they were alive.”
Howell has even fewer memories of the incident.
“I don’t really remember anything. I remember the van trying to stop and then I guess I was unconscious for a little bit. And then I woke up on the ground,” Howell said. “I thought I was dreaming. It wasn’t until my roommate came over with my phone and told me she was calling my mom that I realized, ‘Oh I’ve been hit by a car.’”
Jauregui, who was less injured, immediately got up and focused on Howell, who Jauregui said sounded as if she was having difficulty breathing.
Jauregui, saying she felt fine, stood up and called 911, while Krutzig called the Office of Campus Safety (CSO). By that time, many students had come running and were helping to assist Howell, who could not move.
“Everyone was so helpful,” Krutzig stated. “One person started asking Tori where she was hurting, another stopped traffic and someone else was dialing Tori’s mom.”
Police, paramedics and CSO officers arrived shortly after the incident. After being checked by the paramedics, Howell and Jauregui went to the hospital. Jauregui, who said she was not hit as badly as Howell, escaped with some cuts and bruises. Howell, who estimates that she flew 10 feet when hit by the vehicle, suffered bruises, road rash, a cut on her head and a serious concussion.
“They originally didn’t think [the concussion] was that bad,” Howell said. “But when my symptoms got worse, I went back to the doctor and it was actually a kind of serious concussion. I missed three weeks of class.”
The driver did not stop after hitting the two women. He continued on and turned at Carl Road. Senior Bridget Weisenburger watched the van escape.
“We were down by the stop sign by the [student apartments] when we hear a screech…and then we see this white van come hurtling down and not even stop at the stop sign,” Weisenburger reported.
Police investigators say they have not yet found the driver, though they will continue the investigation.
This is not the first time UD students have experienced trouble while crossing Northgate. Last September, senior Ellie Carrano was hit while crossing between her condo and campus one morning. This time, the accident took place on the middle crosswalk.
“I looked both directions as usual. When I looked one way I saw a car at the bottom of the hill, by Chemsearch [Boulevard],” she said. “I figured I definitely had enough time to cross.”
Yet, while in the middle of the road, she found herself suddenly hit by the car. Carrano reported being flipped onto her back onto the hood of her car before landing on the ground.
“She must have increased her speed considerably from the time that I saw her,” Carrano said. “There just wouldn’t be any other way for that to happen.”
Carrano only suffered a sore back and some bruising. However, she worried that it could have been far more severe if she had not been wearing her backpack.
The woman, who stopped after the accident, told Carrano that she had been in a hurry as she was late to work. Carrano later regretted not getting the woman’s information.
Carrano went to CSO to bring the incident to the officers’ attention. CSO suggested that she called the Irving Police Department [IPD]. Because Carrano was in class when the police arrived, she did not file a report.
“I was kind of surprised by the ambivalence of CSO,” Carrano said. “CSO told me ‘When parents ask us what’s the most dangerous thing about UD, we always say the crosswalk at Northgate.’”
Nonetheless, according to CSO, the university has made progress over the years to ensure students crossing Northgate can do so more safely. Several years ago, the speed limit was lowered from 40 mph to 35 mph at the university’s request and three crosswalks were added, along with flashing pedestrian lights, according to CSO director Charles Steadman. Four-way stop signs were also added at the intersection of Gorman Drive and Northgate. These measures were made, according to Steadman, in large part due to the work of Patrick Daly, associate vice president for administration in Business Services.
“The university communicates with IPD and IPD increases traffic enforcement in the area as needed,” Steadman explained. “Traffic flow is constantly monitored by the city and the university.”
In order to avoid these kind of pedestrian accidents, Steadman gave the following suggestions to students:
1. Be alert when crossing the street and look for drivers who are speeding and may not have enough time to slow down before reaching the red light or stop sign.
2. Do not walk alone if you have been drinking. Your impaired judgment and dulled senses will make it more difficult to get to your destination. Call a taxi, a friend, or a family member to give you a ride or walk with you.
3. When walking at night, be sure to wear bright or reflective clothing and carry a flashlight.
4. Always use sidewalks where available. If you must walk in the street, be sure to walk facing oncoming traffic.
5. When possible, cross the street at a designated crosswalk. Always stop and look left, right and left again before crossing. If a parked vehicle is blocking the view of the street, stop at the edge line of the vehicle and look around it before entering the street.
Even when taking precautions, students worry that this will not be the last time a student is hurt on Northgate.
“It’s scary to think how much worse this accident could have been,” Krutzig said. “Or how much worse the next accident could be.”
– Contributions from Sally Krutzig