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Crash at Las Vegas construction site kills woman, injures 4 kids

Updated July 9, 2019 - 8:12 pm

A Las Vegas woman died Tuesday after her car barreled through a central valley construction site, sending bright orange cones flying as she spun out and slammed into equipment.

Four young children inside the car suffered serious but survivable injuries, Metropolitan Police Department traffic Lt. Bret Ficklin said. A group of good Samaritans helped pull them from the wreckage.

A construction worker also was injured and taken to University Medical Center, Ficklin said. His injuries were not considered life-threatening.

Police said the 56-year-old driver was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected. They also said none of the children in the car were restrained. The children were 10, 9, 4 and 2.

The woman crashed about 10:30 a.m. at 4405 W. Washington Ave., near the Las Vegas Golf Club. The Clark County coroner’s office has not identified her.

At impact, the wreck sounded like an explosion, the golf club’s general manager, Rocky Cleland, said. Witnesses told the Las Vegas Review-Journal the woman’s sedan first clobbered a series of construction cones.

Weaving back and forth, the speeding sedan managed to miss a backhoe but instead slammed into the back of a parked work truck as nearby construction crews covered freshly laid concrete.

Spinning out, it then thunked into a pile of nearby fill dirt and rolled, hitting a skid-steer loader before it came to a stop. Dust rose into the air, clouding the scene.

From inside the clubhouse, Cleland ran toward the wreck. A nearby golfer who saw it happen leaped over a chain-link fence along the edge of the course to help, landing about 10 feet down on the other side before sprinting over to the crushed sedan.

‘Like she couldn’t stop’

When the dust settled, the woman was lying in the street. Cleland paused play on all holes near the scene as police and paramedics responded.

“I want everyone to be OK,” Cleland said through the fence, standing inside the course grounds. “That’s the concern. This side, everything’s OK.”

“When you’re hearing kids screaming like that, it’s —” he said, trailing off.

Another driver, David Carnell, was on his way to golf with friends when he first spotted the woman’s sedan in his rear-view mirror, speeding and swerving erratically.

“She had to be doing at least 100, and that’s no exaggeration,” Carnell, 42, said. “She honked her horn, like she couldn’t stop or something.”

It remains unclear if any mechanical malfunction contributed to the crash. Police also said they did not know if impairment was a factor.

Police described the woman’s car as a 2007 Toyota Camry. In 2009, Toyota announced a floor mat recall that included 2007 to 2010 model Camrys following reports of accelerator pedals becoming trapped on the mats, causing unintended acceleration.

The following year, Toyota announced an accelerator pedal recall that also included 2007 to 2010 model Camrys after reports of pedals sticking in cars without floor mats. The company later faced more than $48 million in civil penalties after a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation into the timeliness of the recall announcements.

As the woman involved in Tuesday’s crash honked, Carnell pulled over, not sure what was going on. She made it around Carnell’s truck just before the chain-reaction crash started, and when it ended, he ran toward the carnage, unknowingly stepping in about 3 feet of fresh concrete as he helped pull the children from the car.

Crusted concrete smeared with blood coated Carnell’s sneakers and calves as he spoke with the Review-Journal, holding a clipboard and filling out a witness statement. A neighbor who also helped retrieve the children offered Carnell a garden hose to wash off.

‘It was so unreal’

One by one, paramedics checked the children out, then loaded them into an ambulance. The woman died at University Medical Center.

Daren Smith, who was at the construction site to pick up the backhoe, was chaining it up when the sedan flew past him.

“It was like, ‘shew,’” he said, trying to imitate the sound. “She just went by so fast.”

Smith, 55, said a young man working construction was just in front of the work truck when the woman’s sedan hit it from behind. The man suffered what Smith guessed was a broken leg, but he believes the work truck saved the man’s life.

Police later identified the worker as Manuel Martinez of Las Vegas. The 31-year-old was treated for blunt force injuries and released.

Smith said he was worried for the people in the car. After police arrived, and things settled down, Smith said he stepped away to pray.

“It was so unreal,” Smith said.

Both sides of Washington Avenue between Decatur Boulevard and Fairway Drive were shut down Tuesday afternoon as police investigated.

Contact Rachel Crosby at rcrosby@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3801. Follow @rachelacrosby on Twitter.

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