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January 4, 2012
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Highway 28 crosswalks in Incline to be analyzed after married couple's deaths

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — State transportation officials plan to analyze Highway 28 through Incline Village to determine the safety of its pedestrian crosswalks, an official confirmed Wednesday, five days after a married couple was killed attempting to cross the road during the start of the busy New Year's Eve holiday weekend.“Whenever there is a high-profile case like this, whenever there's a fatal, we always take a look,” said Scott Magruder, spokesman for the Nevada Department of Transportation. “Is there something that can be done? Better striping, lighting, signage, night visibility — those are the things we look at.”Whether or not changes are made will likely take weeks or more, however, as NDOT awaits details from the ongoing Nevada Highway Patrol investigation into the Dec. 30 tragedy that left Incline residents Robert C. Mathis and Linda Mathis, both 46, dead.

Christopher Torii Smith, 25, from Grass Valley, Calif., was driving a black 2006 Chevrolet pickup southbound (east toward Sand Harbor) on Highway 28 east of the Village Boulevard intersection shortly before 8 p.m. Friday when he allegedly struck the two pedestrians crossing from the east side, in what was described by the highway patrol as a “horrific crash.” Smith had three passengers in the truck, according to NHP; none were injured.Witness statements and evidence at the scene indicate the Mathises were in or close to the painted crosswalk located near the Tahoe Regional Transit Agency bus stop, near Radio Shack, when they were struck, according to NHP.Robert Mathis was pronounced dead at the scene, and Linda Mathis died from her injuries en route to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno.Smith, who is suspected to be under the influence of drugs at the time of the crash, was booked into Washoe County Jail on suspicion of two counts of DUI causing death and failure to yield to pedestrians; his bail was set at $60,200. He was released from jail during the weekend.Information about possible upcoming court dates for Smith and if he has an attorney were unknown as of late Wednesday.

Once news of the incident spread, some locals expressed grief — and concern about the safety of the crosswalks on Highway 28.In a letter to NHP Chief Bernard Curtis and Washoe County Sheriff Mike Haley, longtime Incline Village resident Ross Heppe said he was “shocked and saddened” by the tragedy, but he was “not surprised.”“The crosswalks in Incline are largely ignored, and should have more prominent signage. Some are poorly lit at night (e.g. by Christmas Tree Village),” Heppe wrote. “Trying to cross the street in Incline can be a dangerous proposition, even in daylight conditions. Even the crosswalk at Southwood/Hwy 28 by the skate park, with its flashing light, is ignored by drivers.“We desperately need better enforcement at these crosswalks in order to raise awareness.”Incline resident Willie Lostlen shared a similar view, recommending more street lights and the speed limit through Incline to be reduced on Highway 28 to 25 mph.“I am shocked that we do not have flashing caution lights for pedestrian zones on a major highway,” he wrote in an email to the Bonanza. “I have been walking my dog … and use those crossings constantly, and on numerous occasions have had some very close calls, and that was in the daytime. People fly down this road.”NHP Sgt. Rob Stepien said while he appreciates resident feedback, it's important for people to understand the investigation is ongoing, and further details such as the speed of Smith's vehicle and other factors are yet to be determined.Magruder said he and NDOT Director Susan Martinovich have seen some of the initial feedback from residents; he said NDOT will work as best it can with NHP to analyze the area, once the NHP investigation is complete.One rumor Magruder addressed this week is that NDOT would perform an official safety audit similar to the one it did in 2011 as part of a planned bike path project along Highway 28 on Lake Tahoe's East Shore, between the U.S. Highway 50 and Lakeshore Boulevard intersections.NDOT will not perform one in Incline Village, Magruder said, as those can take months to complete.“It won't be an actual official road safety audit, in those terms, but we will be working with NHP on a safety analysis,” he said. “But right now, it's still too early.”It's unclear how long the NHP investigation will take.

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Jan 4, 2012 10:28PM Published Jan 4, 2012 10:24PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.