RTC sued for creating ‘risk’ for those waiting at bus stops

In 2012, a drunken driver jumped a curb in the southwest valley and crashed into a bus stop shelter, leaving a 15-year-old boy without a leg.

Now the man who was hurt in the wreck as a teenager is suing the Regional Transportation Commission for creating “significant and foreseeable risk” to passengers waiting for a bus.

Conan Obenchain was sitting on a bench at the bus stop about 5 a.m. on Feb. 5, 2012.

Noel Lynn Lardeo, then 26, was driving a 2005 Acura TSX westbound on Spring Mountain Road, west of Jones Boulevard, when she veered onto the north sidewalk. She struck the bus stop shelter’s left side and continued on, striking Obenchain and causing him “severe bodily injuries,” the complaint says.

Lardeo pleaded guilty to DUI with substantial bodily harm and was sentenced to six to 15 years in prison in December 2012. Nevada Department of Correction Records show she is imprisoned at Florence McClure’s Women’s Correctional Center.

Obenchain’s civil complaint, filed Monday in federal court, claims the commission violated his 14th Amendment right to due process, which guarantees “freedom from injury due to a danger created by state policy, custom, procedure or practice” and “freedom from injury due to the intentional acts, deliberate indifference and conscious disregard of an individual’s life, safety and well-being by individuals acting under ‘color of state law.’”

The bus stop shelter was 1½ to 3 feet from the roadway, which sees heavy traffic, and was designed without protective barriers, the complaint claims. The commission didn’t design the bus shelter to withstand the impact of a car traveling at a reasonable speed and the commission didn’t post signs warning passengers about the dangerous position of the shelter or risk of injury from a collision.

The lawsuit alleges that the commission knew of a safety study of bus shelters in Clark County before the crash happened and “consciously and intentionally decided not to remove, close or modify” the bus stop.

Obenchain, represented by attorney Leslie Mark Stovall, is asking for general and punitive damages and attorney’s fees. Stovall didn’t respond to a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.

There have been several deadly crashes at RTC bus stops in recent years.

On Feb. 4, a car driven by 27-year-old Jessica Davison veered over a median and struck Jason Donahue, a 68-year-old wheelchair-bound man, at a bus stop on West Lake Mead Boulevard, east of North Rancho drive. Donahue died at University Medical Center.

On Jan. 9, South Korean visitor Jooyoung Do, who was in town for CES, an international consumer electronics show, was struck and killed by a bus driver who a witness said fell asleep behind the wheel. Do was walking east on Tropicana Avenue and had just passed Polaris Avenue when the bus veered off the road and onto the sidewalk, plowing through a bus shelter and hitting Do.

That driver, Jamal Nichols, worked for Keolis Transit America, a company that contracts drivers with the RTC in the southern valley. He hasn’t been charged or cited in the case.

In December, Leonardo Ruesga pleaded guilty to charges that he was high on marijuana and methamphetamine on March 30, 2015, when he crashed into a bus stop near the intersection of Sahara Avenue and Maryland Parkway, killing 58-year-old Maria Garcia and her granddaughter, Alyssa Aisa.

In 2013, two pickups collided on Bonanza Road and Lamb Boulevard, causing one truck to slam into a bus shelter on Lamb, where a father and his children were waiting. Three children, then ages 2, 4 and 5, spent two weeks at UMC recovering from critical injuries.

In 2012, four people were killed and several were injured when Gary Lee Hosey Jr. crashed into a bus stop on Spring Mountain Road near Decatur Boulevard. Hosey later was sentenced to 24 to 80 years in prison after pleading guilty to four counts of DUI with death and one count of DUI with substantial bodily harm in connection with the crash.

There are 3,400 bus stops valleywide and about 2,000 have shelters or a bench, a commission spokesman said Tuesday. The commission has invested more than $22 million since 2008 to build new, safer shelters and upgrade some shelters by moving them back 5 feet from the curb, but many can’t be moved because of a brick wall or uncooperative property owner.

The commission would not comment on Obenchain’s case because the commission does not comment on litigation, spokesman Carl Scarbrough said. It was unclear Tuesday whether the bus stop shelter where Obenchain was hit was ever moved.

Contact Kimber Laux at klaux@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0283. Find @lauxkimber on Twitter.

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