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Man killed in Sebastopol crosswalk enjoyed frequent walks

The man who died Wednesday evening after being hit by a car in a Sebastopol crosswalk was a fixture on the West County Regional Trail, where he'd wave or say hi to passers-by on his slow evening walks.

Frederic Ernst, 69, was apparently on one of those walks and headed home at about 7 p.m. Wednesday when he was struck in a crosswalk on Healdsburg Avenue by a westbound Ford Focus, Sebastopol police said. He died in the impact.

The crash occurred as Ernst was crossing Healdsburg Avenue headed toward Murphy Avenue, where he lived. Healdsburg Avenue is part of Highway 116, the main route through town.

Police identified the woman driving the Ford as Ajatha Bollmannwytema, 75, of Occidental. She was headed west at the time, returning home after shopping in Sebastopol. After striking Ernst, she stopped and became extremely distraught, so officers weren't initially able to interview her, Police Chief Jeff Weaver said.

She was still distraught Thursday, said Sgt. Greg DeVore. Officers called the county's law enforcement chaplaincy program to provide assistance to her and she was taken home Wednesday, Weaver said.

On Thursday, she showed up at the police station with a friend before police reached out to her.

"She's having a very difficult time now," DeVore said. She was not physically hurt in the crash, he added.

DeVore said he is still in the process of investigating the case, including interviewing four or more witnesses to determine what caused the collision and who is fault.

"We're nowhere near being able to talk about a cause," he said.

Bollmannwytema's car was taken as evidence. Officers also took a blood sample to determine whether she was impaired at the time, although DeVore said he doesn't suspect that was the case.


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