A 3-year-old boy was killed after an elderly driver ran her car into his family as they walked through a busy east Flagstaff parking lot Sunday.
According to information from the Flagstaff Police Department, the fatal crash happened around 12:25 p.m. in the parking lot of the Flagstaff Best Buy, located at 5005 E. Marketplace Drive. A witness told officers a woman and her two children were crossing the parking lot directly in front of the store when a 66-year-old woman in a car failed to stop, striking all three of them.
The toddler, his 43-year-old mother and his 8-year-old sister were injured. They were taken to Flagstaff Medical Center for treatment.
The 3-year-old boy sustained serious injuries. He died at the hospital in the early morning hours Monday.
“I want to say how absolutely tragic this is for this family and for the entire community,” said Police Chief Kevin Treadway, who was among the law enforcement personnel who responded to the scene of the deadly collision.
The driver, who was the sole occupant of the vehicle, remained at the scene. She has not been charged with a crime at this time.
“She’s been very cooperative throughout the course of the investigation and extremely distraught at the news of the injuries and the death of the child,” Treadway said.
Officers did not see any obvious signs that the driver may have been impaired by alcohol or drugs at the time of the accident, and it does not appear she was speeding through the Best Buy parking lot.
“In this particular investigation, it appears that, at the time the collision occurred, the vehicle was traveling at a low speed,” Treadway said.
The collision continues to be investigated by the Flagstaff Police Department accident reconstruction team. Their job will be to piece together how the collision happened. Treadway said it does not appear the incident was caught on surveillance video, though there were eyewitnesses.
Investigators will look at how well the driver’s brakes were working, her driving history and any medical conditions that may have contributed to the collision, as well as whether she may have been distracted, or made a mistake, such as accidentally hitting the accelerator when she meant to hit the brake
At this point, the cause of the deadly crash is unknown.
“These are very in-depth investigations, very detailed investigations that involve the creation of a scale diagram, speed analysis and everything else,” Treadway said. “It is very much under investigation and probably will be for a number of weeks.”
Because the collision happened on private property, the law limits the number of circumstances in which the police can issue a ticket even in a case where someone is killed or seriously injured unless a crime has been committed.
“On private property, we can enforce DUI, reckless driving and driving on a suspended license (laws), but outside of those three violations, we really cannot take enforcement action on private property for the most part,” Treadway said.
The law also allows the police to arrest someone involved in a hit-and-run on private property. However, officers cannot write tickets for violations like speeding or running a stop sign on private property.
Treadway said FPD will discuss the case with the Coconino County Attorney’s Office to determine whether criminal charges will be brought against the driver once the investigation is complete.
“It has been our policy that whenever a death occurs as a result of a traffic collision, we always meet with the County Attorney’s Office to discuss the case,” he said.
Regardless of whether the driver will face any charges, Treadway said Sunday’s deadly collision is a reminder of how careful drivers need to be, especially in parking lots and other areas where children may be present.
Just last September, a 10-year-old girl was run over and died after she somehow slipped under the vehicle she was chasing as it drove away from a home in the 5200 block of North Highway 89.
“We have two children that we’ve lost here in the last five or six months,” Treadway said. “It’s just tragic.”
FPD expressed condolences for the family and issued a notice to other drivers.
“The Flagstaff Police Department would like to remind all motorists that they should always remain alert and cautious, especially when driving in areas where pedestrians are prevalent, such as in private property parking lots,” police said in a press release Monday.
Sgt. Margaret Bentzen, a spokesperson for the Police Department, added that drivers should remember to take a second look around for children.
“It behooves anybody that’s behind the wheel of a car to recognize that they need to look down as well as forward,” she said.
She called both the children killed in the past five months in traffic collisions “two too many.”
FPD is asking anyone who witnessed Sunday’s collision or has information about it to contact the Police Department at 774-1414.
Editor's note: This report has been corrected from its original version.