Lawyer for family of woman killed on busy Santa Rosa road disputes police account
On Oct. 23, Santa Rosa preschool teacher Jennell Davies became one of two people killed at or near the Stony Point and Occidental roads intersection - one of the city’s busiest intersections - in west Santa Rosa in the span of more than five weeks.
A third person, 20-year-old bicyclist Sidney Falbo, died eight days later when she apparently rode into the path of a dump truck on the southbound lane of Stony Point Road near the Highway 12 off-ramp, about a block south of where Davies was killed.
It’s an intersection and nearby stretch of roadway police say poses challenges for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians given the high number of people who pass by daily. The spate of fatalities there is spotlighting the potential danger.
In all, roughly 38,700 cars a day are driven on Stony Point Road between the eastbound Highway 12 offramp and Occidental Road, a 2017 Santa Rosa traffic count of the city’s major intersections found.
It’s among the busiest intersections in the city, with three segments of Steele Lane near the Coddingtown Mall getting the heaviest traffic, upward of 45,000 cars daily, according to a Press Democrat analysis of the city’s traffic count data.
In Davies’ case, Santa Rosa police said a passing driver, identified as Jose Manuel Canseco-Moreno, 26, of Santa Rosa, had a green light when his pickup truck struck Davies, 39, as she walked east on Occidental Road over Stony Point Road at the intersection’s northern crosswalk, just feet from a Highway 12 offramp.
Personal injury lawyer Michael Fiumara, who was hired by Davies’ family following the crash, disputed the Police Department’s account, saying Davies’ boyfriend was with her that night.
The boyfriend said Davies pushed the walk button and waited for the walk sign before entering the crosswalk. He was feet behind her when she was hit, stalled by two friends he bumped into on the opposite side of the street. Davies went ahead without him.
The couple was headed home to the Walnut Grove Apartment complex, where Davies had lived for more than a decade.
“He’s trying to catch up and it’s just a matter of feet before he could reach her,” Fiumara said of her boyfriend. “He said the car didn’t even stop; it just hit her.”
Sgt. Summer Gloeckner said investigators have reached out to Davies’ boyfriend since the incident, and while his statements were similar to those he made to officers the night of the crash, investigators still think Canseco-Moreno had the right of way.
Canseco-Moreno, who was going north on Stony Point, stayed at the scene afterward and did not show signs of impairment, said Gloeckner, who oversees the Santa Rosa Police Department’s traffic bureau. Toxicology reports are expected to take weeks to complete. The Press Democrat was not able to find contact information for Canseco-Moreno.
“In this situation, based on driver and witness statements, she was crossing when she didn’t have the right of way,” Gloeckner said.
Together, the three fatalities raise bigger questions about the safety of the intersection at Stony Point and Occidental roads and nearby, Fiumara said.
“It’s a dangerous intersection and it’s not working,” he said, pointing to Santa Rosa police data released after Davies’ death.
The crash was the eighth involving a pedestrian at or near the intersection since May 2014, three of which were fatal, he said the data show.
Stony Point Road itself serves as a major commuter thoroughfare, stretching about 14 miles from Santa Rosa’s West College Avenue down to Petaluma Boulevard North and providing an alternative for drivers looking to avoid traffic on Highway 101.
Part of the traffic near where the two pedestrians and bike rider were killed is motorists visiting nearby shopping centers, including the Oliver’s Market shopping center that flanks the Stony Point and Occidental roads intersection. Two others, one with a gas station, are all located less than a quarter-mile south on Stony Point Road.
Additional traffic spills onto the area from Highway 12, a busy route running from east to west through Santa Rosa. Homeless encampments at the nearby Joe Rodota Trail, which runs parallel to Highway 12, and another at the nearby Northpoint Corporate Center brings an influx of people walking on foot to the area, said downtown enforcement Sgt. Jonathan Wolf.
Still, the busy Stony Point and Occidental Road intersection is not one that had raised red flags for Santa Rosa’s traffic engineering division, responsible for ensuring the city’s roads are safe and efficient for traffic flow, said Robert Sprinkle, the department’s deputy director.
Sprinkle was hesitant to say what, if any changes, should be made to the intersection, before receiving the results of the police investigations into the recent fatalities.
Traffic engineers kept the speed limit at ?35 mph after conducting its ?2016 engineering and traffic survey on Stony Point between the Highway 12 eastbound ramps and West 3rd Street. Such a survey is done every five to seven years.
Nineteen car crashes were reported in that area within two years of the survey, with just over a third having to do with excessive speed, including drivers who did not give themselves enough time to stop before hitting cars in front of them.
Heather Ferguson, Davies’ sister, said she hopes the city can do more to prevent more fatalities at the west Santa Rosa intersection where her older sister was struck and killed two weeks ago. She expressed concern with the sidewalk’s proximity to the highway exit and said more signs are needed to indicate to drivers when pedestrians are crossing.
“Me and my family, we’re demanding that there be change there,” Ferguson said. “You can’t just let this happen again.”
Gloeckner said the intersection’s heavy traffic volume raises the likelihood of car crashes and makes it one where pedestrians need to be extra careful walking.
“At any given time of day, it’s a busy area,” said Gloeckner, head of the city police traffic bureau. “Don’t assume. Look twice and look twice again.”
You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @nashellytweets.