News Editor Sarah Cornell-Maier


Editor’s Note: This story has been updated since its original print date, Sept. 27, 2017.

A Parkland Light and Water Company (PL&WCo) vehicle collided with a student Sept. 7 on a street adjacent to the Pacific Lutheran University Campus.

That morning, senior Jonathan Spielmann was walking to Ingram Hall for an academic advising appointment. Spielmann said he paused at the edge of the sidewalk near the intersection of 8th Avenue Ct. South and 121st Street South before heading across the street. A truck from PL&WCo collided with Spielmann before he made it across, knocking him to the ground and sending his Birkenstocks flying.

“I was walking across the street and the truck just ran me over,” Spielmann  said.

While Spielmann said that the collision occurred at the crosswalk, representatives from PL&WCo and the Pierce County Sheriff Department present alternative accounts.

In a statement from PL&WCo, the company claims Spielmann emerged from between two parked vehicles a sizable distance from the crosswalk when the collision occurred.

“PL&WCo employee’s quick reaction and attentive driving averted what may have been a much more serious incident,” General Manager of PL&WCo Susan Cutrell said.

According to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Report physical evidence at the scene indicates the collision happened outside of the intersection and crosswalk area. The report states that the reporting officer “noted evidence on the pavement from Spielmann, shoe scrub, flesh from his knee, to include the vehicle tire marks.” Taking this evidence into account, the officer concluded the impact occurred 30 feet south of the crosswalk, according to the report.

Spielmann declined to comment on the conflicting accounts.

After the incident, Campus Safety (CSAF) responded quickly by contacting Spielmann and providing basic first aid until Central Pierce Fire & Rescue arrived. Spielmann then received transport to Pacific Lutheran University’s Health Center in a CSAF vehicle.

Director of Campus Safety Greg Premo, who has been at PLU since 2010, said he had never heard of an incident between a car and pedestrian involving a PLU student so close to campus.

I have heard of ‘close calls’ but since nothing [like this has] actually happened there are no official reports,” said Premo.

In recent years, Campus Safety has received information about several close calls happening at the area of Park Avenue by the Anderson University Center. In response, CSAF worked in tandem with Pierce County to add a new crosswalk and flashing lights to the intersection to increase student and community safety.

Spielmann said he is still shaken up about his experience being hit.

“The pain and agony that I’ve experienced through the past few weeks is not going to be fixed by any amount of money that I receive,” said Spielmann. “My girlfriend has to drive me to class now for her [peace of mind], and every time we go through that intersection I tense up. It’s a really vivid memory.”

In response to these recent events, CSAF is issuing some advice to students when it comes to being a safe pedestrian.

CSAF strongly encourages pedestrians to be aware when they are crossing the street, whether they are using a crosswalk or crossing mid-block. They recommend that students practice safe walking habits, including never assuming that vehicles will stop, even if the pedestrian has the right-of-way.

CSAF recommends extra caution, especially on the 121st Street corridor where visibility is a challenge for both drivers and pedestrians.

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