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Blind couple struck in Santa Rosa crosswalk

A blind couple crossing West Third Street on the way to dinner Tuesday night was struck by a car in a crosswalk despite activated crosswalk flashers on each side of the street.

Police were still investigating the 8:40 p.m. crash that left Erik Smiley, 49, with a broken leg, fractured ribs and perhaps a broken collar bone, his girlfriend, Karen Ledger-Leydecker, said.

He was in surgery Wednesday afternoon and was listed in fair condition, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Ledger-Leydecker, 43, also was struck and suffered a sprained ankle and other minor injuries.

Police said the pair was crossing West Third Street southbound at Brockhurst Drive just west of Stony Point Road when they were struck by an eastbound Honda Civic driven by Santa Rosa resident Gregg Jann, 48.

“That's the biggest fear that anyone who's blind experiences, is not knowing if you're going to make it across the street no matter how good your skills are,” said Allan Brenner, chief executive officer of the non-profit Earle Baum Center for the Blind, where Smiley is a board member.

The investigation was ongoing, police Sgt. Rich Celli said. But preliminary review puts Jann at fault. Investigators said they will review a variety of factors in the case to determine if he should be cited, including weather conditions, lighting and distractions inside the car.

Alcohol does not appear to be a factor, Celli said.

Smiley, who has used a cane all of his life to get around, lives less than a quarter mile down West Third Street west of the site of the collision.

Ledger-Leydecker attends College of the Redwoods in Eureka and was visiting him during her spring break, she said.

The two were headed to Carl's Jr. restaurant on Stony Point Road when she pushed the button to activate the crosswalk flasher, heard the chirp and signaled her guide dog, Dotty, to check for traffic and then cross.

They were more than halfway across when she was thrown to the ground, separated from her boyfriend and her dog, she said.

“It happened so darn fast,” Ledger-Leydecker said. “I heard screech and that's all.”

She learned later that someone who apparently saw the collision stood over them while they lay in the street to ensure no one else struck them.

“I would love to meet that person, and at least thank them,” Ledger-Leydecker said.

Police are looking for witnesses and ask that anyone who saw the incident call Officer Hiroshi Yaguchi at 543-3636.

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