Pedestrian hit on Mission Boulevard dies of injuries, second such death in a week
Published: Monday, October 22, 2012 at 8:36 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at 8:00 a.m.
Santa Rosa resident Alejandro Torres, 24, had just parked his car along Mission Boulevard on Saturday night and was crossing the street to his nearby apartment when he was hit by a car.
Hours later, he died.
Torres' death early Sunday makes him the second pedestrian to die in Santa Rosa in less than a week after being hit by a car while walking in a crosswalk.
Their deaths bring the total of pedestrians killed in Santa Rosa to 10 since January 2011.
On Monday, people at the medical devices company where Torres worked mourned the young man they described as kind-hearted and generous, who recently brought a dish of Jell-O to a co-worker.
"He was a great guy, always had a smile on his face, and he was very motivated," said TJ Shadid, manager of the SMC Ltd. plant on Brickway Boulevard, where Torres worked in production support.
"He had that big smile on his face, that's what stood about him," Shadid said.
Also killed recently was Joseph Von Merta, 57. He died last Tuesday, a day after he was hit while crossing College Avenue at Mendocino Avenue.
Both fatal collisions remained under investigation Monday, Santa Rosa traffic Sgt. Rich Celli said.
In both collisions, the drivers told officers they never saw the pedestrians, who were both well into the crosswalks.
There were several witnesses to the Mission Boulevard crash in east Santa Rosa and some accounts differed, Celli said.
But witnesses indicated driver Sebastian Valdoz, 42, of Santa Rosa appeared to be traveling the 35-mph speed limit just before striking the man, Celli said.
It was about 7:10 p.m. Valdoz, in a Nissan Sentra sedan, was coming along the righthand curve up to Randall Lane and the crosswalk.
Torres was walking east to west and was at least one-third of the way along the crosswalk when the sedan struck him. The young man hit the windshield and was thrown over the back of the car.
Other cars were making a right turn onto Randall, and officers are trying to determine if any of those vehicles could have blocked a view of Torres, Celli said.
Mission Boulevard is a busy route connecting Highway 12 and Montecito Boulevard. The corner at Randall Lane is lit by a streetlight, Celli said.
"It's not clear who had the right of way. We're trying to determine what happened there," he said.
While speed and alcohol didn't appear to be an issue, they still were being investigated, Celli said.
Torres died about eight hours after the crash, according to a coroner's report that listed his time of death as 3:18 a.m. Sunday.
Traffic officers have fewer witnesses to the 5:20 a.m. crash Oct. 15 on College Avenue near downtown Santa Rosa.
Preliminarily, according to at least one witness and the driver, Von Merta was walking against the signal, which gave driver Emanuel Morales-Rodriguez, 25, of Santa Rosa the right of way, Celli said.
Von Merta was more than halfway through the intersection when he was struck. He was knocked into the windshield and back over the roof of the car.
He died at 7:20 p.m. Tuesday.
Von Merta was known to police as a homeless man who stayed in the downtown area.
Six of the 10 victims, including Von Merta, have been Santa Rosa-area homeless men, police said.
Most of those men were intoxicated at the time they were hit, and police determined the fault in the collisions was with them.
Whether alcohol might have played a role in last week's crash remained under investigation.
Celli, who has helped investigate the long string of fatal pedestrian collisions, said police statistics show pedestrians often are found to be at fault.
Either way, the pedestrians are never going to win, he said.
"There seems to be this air of confidence by pedestrians. If they think they have the right of way, they're just going to take the road," Celli said. "You've got to be defensive. Make eye contact with a driver. Don't assume they're going to stop."
Staff Writer Jeremy Hay contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 521-5412 or randi. firstname.lastname@example.org.
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