Car versus pedestrian crash prompts Sioux Falls officials to look at intersection

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - A car versus pedestrian crash took the life of a 54-year-old man on Tuesday night just after 10 p.m. It's the second pedestrian crash near the intersection of 9th and Cliff in less than two months.

Sioux Falls Police Capt. Loren McManus said the crash happened while two patrol officers were in the area doing a regular check of well-being on five individuals to determine whether they were illegally intoxicated or taking part in other criminal activity.

It was at that time that one of the officers observed one of the subjects consuming alcohol from an open container and it was determined that person would be issued a citation.

The other four people were released and were leaving the scene. While one officer was writing the citation in a squad car, the other officer was on the east side of Cliff Avenue with the subject. Two of the four people leaving the scene crossed Cliff Ave. near 9th Street from east to west. McManus said the officer saw a pickup truck coming at the pair and tried to warn everyone, but it was too late.

Police have not released the identify of the deceased victim because they have been unable to find a next of kin.

A similar crash occurred back on June 25. The driver took off and police still have not found the two suspects who were in the vehicle. While both parties were critically injured, no one was killed, so this accident is making the "antennas go up," McManus said.

Alcohol was involved on both sides. McManus said the driver also had consumed alcohol but was legally intoxicated. The two people struck had also been drinking but police also believed they were also OK.

McManus said the officer who was with the person receiving the citation saw the accident about to happen and warned everyone, but at that point, it was too late.

The difference in this accident was the fatality, and the fact that the driver actually immediately jumped out of the vehicle and began trying to help the victims. Police say he's been cooperative.

The City of Sioux Falls said two accidents involving pedestrians at the same intersection is concerning, but they follow nine federal guidelines to determine whether a signal needs to be added to the intersection.

"We always look for clusters of crashes at a location and when we do we look to see if we should be signalizing it or making other improvements," said Heath Hoftiezer, Principal Traffic Engineer for the city. "It's five crashes in a 12 month period, if it's just a regular mix of pedestrians, like in the downtown area, you're looking at about 100 pedestrians an hour."

At this point, neither of those criteria have been met for the intersection of 9th St. and Cliff Ave. But people who live and work in the area said this is an ongoing problem.

"It's unfortunate what happened last night," said Dallis Muller, who lives on Cliff Ave. "I'm sorry that happened to that person."

Muller is actually one of the people who admits to regularly crossing the street at 9th St. instead of walking to one of the crosswalks, even though he said he was concerned about committing a "lesser" illegal crime.

"Sometimes I like the convenience of just jaywalking," Muller said.

But he isn't really committing a crime. McManus said because of the close proximity to two other crosswalks, Sioux Falls Police would not issue jaywalking citations at that intersection. Still, multiple employees at Dakota Auto Parts told us something needs to be done and one employee said he almost hit someone just a few days ago trying to get to work.

"The guy wasn't even paying attention to the road," said Dan Bratten, an employee at Dakota Auto Parts. "He was just walking with his head down just walking straight forward, real slow, wasn't like he was even like he was in a hurry to cross a busy street."

But no one's sure exactly what the best solution is yet.

"I know the police say its a well-lit intersection, well, 8th street is well lit, 9th street really isn't lit that great," Bratten said.

"There's not a lot of pedestrian crashes in the city, so when we see a pair of them relatively close together at a location, that tells us we have to start looking at what's going on," Hoftiezer said.

Drivers who regularly use Cliff Avenue are cautioned to be on the look out for pedestrians and people walking, if they choose to not used a crosswalk, should be extra careful. Hoftiezer said the City would prefer people use the crosswalks at 8th and 10th Streets.

People say the investigation into what exactly caused the crash is still ongoing.