The Demott family is grieving the loss of their 19-year old son, Dakota, after last night’s fatal accident on Sand Canyon Road at Alamo Canyon Drive. Friends gather at the site (at right) to try and make sense of the tragedy. Another family prays for their son’s recovery from life-threatening injuries at a local hospital.
But there are other victims who must deal with the aftermath of an accident such as Tuesday night’s horrific crash.
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Ken and Nancy Fisher own the house on the corner of Sand Canyon Road and Alamo Canyon Drive. It’s halfway between Soledad Canyon and Placerita Canyon, not too far from a curve and right on a straightaway.
Tuesday’s accident was the seventh crash in the couple’s 16 years of living on the corner and so far, had the worst outcome.
The posted speed limit at that part of Sand Canyon Road is 45 miles per hour. Sheriff’s officials said that the vehicle involved in the crash was traveling at a high rate of speed.
Ken Fisher was one of the first people at the scene. He saw the driver in the car and the passenger who had been thrown out. As he attempted to render aid, he said cars sped by him as he screamed for them to stop.
The chaos resulting from the single-vehicle crash has put him and his family on the edge and they want something done about it. Even though they have a meeting set up with Mayor Laurie Ender and City Manager Ken Pulskamp, they’re not sure anything is going to change.
“We’re grieving along with the families and we feel for them,” he said. “But nobody should have to see dead bodies and broken people and broken cars. We just finished the last incident and now this has happened again.”
“I’m tired of hearing that is all falls within the parameters of the law and that at this particular point, after studies and investigation that everything is status quo and there’s nothing that will be done. It’s just another way of saying that we know it’s going to happen again and nothing’s going to change, people don’t change and we’re just bracing ourselves for the next time.”
The last incident happened in September, when Nathan Wolitarsky, a promising shotputter from Canyon High headed for UCLA on a track scholarship, lost control of his car and plowed into the same tree hit by the car Tuesday night.
Fisher heard the crash and was first on the scene to help the young athlete. He put out a fire that started beneath Wolitarsky’s car and, after seeing the extent of his injuries, offered comfort until paramedics arrived.
Wolitarsky was reportedly traveling upwards of 100 miles per hour. His injuries were severe, but he has survived and recently visited Fisher to thank him for saving his life.
“I told him that what he had done to himself, there were a thousand other ways we could have been introduced, but he involved us,” Fisher said. “If I helped, then (I asked him to) be an advocate, tell his friends and other people what happened to him. I know that he can’t reach everybody, but perhaps someone down the line would listen.”
Wolitarsky is using a walker now and has scars on his knees and face, reminding him of his close call. He’s due to start UCLA in September 2013.
Tests done after the Wolitarsky crash didn’t reveal anything wrong with the street itself. But city officials can’t be responsible for reckless drivers, especially young drivers who consider themselves invincible.
Fisher cited incidents of road rage, speeding motorcycles, drag racing and of course, speeding.
“The worst time is after the midnight hour,” he said. “I tell the sheriff about this repeatedly. I’m trying to get some statistics related to traffic accidents, because there are constantly sirens in this canyon.”
The first accident at that corner involved a car that went through the chain link fence, taking out 15 feet of fencing before fleeing. The next involved a van that went out of control and sheared off a fire hydrant right across the street, late at night.
The third happened in the middle of the day; the driver of a car making a left turn panicked, hitting the brakes and fishtailing, hitting Fisher’s tree.
An out-of-control Volvo left a deep gouge in the oak tree, along with a bumper and other vehicle debris before leaving without so much as a note.
Incident number five was preceded by sirens and helicopters; a car being pursued hit they hydrant, creating a geyser that rained down on all the deputies with their guns drawn.
Last night, Fisher was on the phone when he heard the sound of crunching and scraping of metal on pavement. Running out, he saw the carnage and was overwhelmed with a sense of helplessness, frustration and a passion to see things changed.
“I saw a cloud of dust, even though it was pitch black, and I called 911,” he recalled. “I was screaming to person on the other end that this happened before. I was out of my mind.”
The Fishers have raised two sons in the home at the corner of Sand and Alamo. He remembers worrying about their safety as they walked to the bus stop and says he continues to worry about them driving in the canyon. Above all, he worries about the people who continue to lose a grip on their common sense when they get behind the wheel on Sand Canyon.
“My oldest son’s getting married in our backyard in June. It’s going to be an evening wedding, so of course, I have concerns. Nothing seems to get done. Now we have death on our property. How we get past this, nobody knows.”
“This is a curve that goes right into a straightaway,” he continued. “It’s also a place where there’s a strip for cyclists and a walking horse trail. But it seems to be ungoverned and the issue swept under the carpet. How many people will have to die before anyone takes notice? I want a bigger voice.”
In the meantime, he and his wife can’t stop thinking about the parents dealing with their sons’ death and injuries. Constantly reminding them of their nightmare is the debris left behind, which Fisher likened to a war zone.
“There’s a dead man’s blood on the fence and ground, gloves, syringes, triage supplies they left behind. I understand that we have to give the families some space, but what about us? You have to think of the other side. We’re living a nightmare so soon after the other one. We know it’s going to happen again and again.”
“I’m not asking people to help us (with the cause of lowering the speed limit and increasing safety along Sand Canyon), I’m asking them to help everyone.”
He plans to present the issue at the Sand Canyon Homeowners meeting next month.