Hit-and-Run Accidents Continue to Mount as 2014 Draws to Close

Police investigate a hit-and-run incident where one driver was seriously injured at the intersection of 13th Avenue and Lafayette Street in central Denver on April 2014.

Joe Mahoney / Rocky Mountain PBS I-News

Police investigate a hit-and-run incident where one driver was seriously injured at the intersection of 13th Avenue and Lafayette Street in central Denver on April 2014.

The hit-and-run epidemic in Colorado continued this year, claiming another 22 lives and injuring more than one person a day in the metro area’s core.

The victims included 11-year-old Michael “Mikey” Espinoza, killed Feb. 16th crossing Federal Boulevard when he was hit by a man street racing.

The next month 19-year Reid Huffman, an AmeriCorp volunteer from North Carolina who came to Colorado to help students at a Denver school, was killed as he crossed South Federal Boulevard.

And finally earlier this month, Nadine Chavez, 53, who gave her time to others, including cooking for Denver firefighters, was killed crossing the street at East 33rd Avenue near Filmore Street in Denver.

“She didn’t have much, but she would give you the shirt off her back,” her daughter Renee Chavez told 9News. “Nobody deserves to be run down and killed and just left there to die like a piece of road kill. It’s just not right.”

A joint follow-up investigation by Rocky Mountain PBS I-News and 9News found through the first 11 months of this year:

– From Pueblo to Fort Collins, 21 people were killed ranging in age from 11 to 75. Chavez was the 22nd after being hit Dec. 9th. That is up from 18 people who died in hit and run accidents in 2013. Four of the 2014 victims were under the age of 20, 12 were pedestrians and alcohol was a factor in at least 12 of the deaths, according to Colorado Department of Transportation records.

– Five of the 22 are unsolved, including the deaths of Chavez and a 62-year-old man found dead near a RTD transit center in Boulder.

– Another 446 people in Denver, Aurora and Lakewood were injured by hit and run drivers, according to police records from the three cities. That’s an average of 1.3 a day, slightly higher than the 1.2 a day between 2011 and 2013 in the three cities.

– In all, there were 5,269 hit-and run-accidents of all kinds in Denver in 2014, injury and non-injury. That equals almost 16 a day. It is also about one fourth of all accidents in the city during the first 11 months of the year.

– Federal Boulevard in Denver was the most dangerous street for hit-and-run accidents. It had 306 of all kinds in 2014 including 32 that caused injuries.

One of the more unusual cases involved the death of Johnnie Hagerman, 46, who was killed in his Pueblo home March 11 after a car crashed into his house and the driver fled leaving behind the car, according to the Pueblo Chieftain.

Victor Montour eventually pled guilty after initially saying the car was stolen. He faces 36 to 48 years in prison when he is sentenced next year. He had a previous arrest for leaving the scene of an accident, the Chieftain reported.

After 9News and I-News initially reported on the epidemic earlier this year, state lawmakers doubled the statute of limitations in fatal hit and runs from five to 10 years and created a statewide alert system, called the Medina alert, for drivers involved in injury and fatal hit and runs.

The investigation found that 122 people in Colorado had been killed by hit and run drivers between 2008 and 2013. The epidemic peaked in 2012 when 34 people died from being hit by drivers who fled the scene.

 

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