Updated September 9, 2022 - 9:06 pm
Riley McGowan was going about his normal rounds checking valves for Southwest Gas, just two days away from a promotion to an office job, where he would be out of the heat and off the streets.
But at 9:30 a.m. July 13, a screeching vehicle barreled toward the 6-foot-2 McGowan as he stood on a sidewalk near U.S. Highway 95 on-ramp and changed his life.
“There’s a Dodge Dakota about 5 feet in front of me,” the Las Vegas native said. “I have no time to move or anything. Next thing I know I’m flying through the air and laying on the ground.”
McGowan, 23, was run over a second time before the driver, later identified by police as Danielle Kove, drove away from the scene near Casino Center Boulevard and U.S. 95.
Kove, 48, was arrested that day on her third impaired driving case in 11 months. The other two cases remained open as of Friday. A criminal complaint filed in July said Kove was possibly under the influence of drugs at the time of the crash, in which she had been driving off the onramp. She also was convicted of impaired driving twice in California, in March and July 2015.
“I’m glad that she was arrested after fleeing the scene,” McGowan said, tearing up. “She’s pleading guilty, owning up finally is good, but it’s sad that it had to be her third DUI.”
McGowan suffered a shattered ankle and broke both bones in his other leg. After 10 surgeries and six weeks at University Medical Center, he was amputated above his right knee and below his left knee.
‘Going to take more opportunities’
“I remember coding,” McGowan said from a northwest Las Vegas rehab center Thursday. “I was gone for two minutes, had an out-of-body experience. It’s scary reliving that and remembering it, to think that I was almost gone. I almost met my maker, and I am lucky to still be here.”
Southwest Gas is holding the position for McGowan, an aspiring accountant, while he undergoes rehabilitation and awaits prosthetic legs. His family has opened a GoFundMe account for his medical expenses.
The events have altered McGowan’s perspective on life and the future.
“I didn’t really live my life to the fullest before this, but it’s definitely changed my outlook,” McGowan said. “I’m going to take more opportunities, go out and be more of a yes man when opportunities arise, whether it’s something simple like vacations or going out with friends.”
Need for accountability
McGowan’s mother, Carmen McGowan, is hoping her son’s situation can help put an end to impaired driving. She has reached out to Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and is waiting to see who is elected to the state Senate and Assembly to write possible legislation.
“These repeat offenders need to stop,” Carmen McGowan said, urging for stricter sentencing. “These people need to be held accountable.”
Southwest Gas spokesman Sean Corbett called McGowan a valuable member of the company and asked drivers to watch out for utility workers doing their jobs near roadways.
“Every day our employees and contractors share the road with motorists to maintain our gas pipelines to ensure that natural gas gets delivered to our customers safely and (reliably),” Corbett wrote in a statement. “Similarly, workers from electric, water, sewer and other utilities also work along roadways daily. It is critical motorists not to put their and others’ lives at risk — by slowing down, complying with all traffic warnings, watching their speed limit and directional signage when approaching work zones, and to never drive impaired.”
Riley and Carmen McGowan are planning to make statements at Kove’s sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for Sept. 29. She pleaded guilty to one count of driving under the influence resulting in substantial bodily harm.