OGDEN — Carrie Peterson sobbed as she remembered her friend, Daniel Thobe.
“He just made me smile, every time. Just about on a daily basis he’d come clear across the parking lot just to give me a hug, just to make my day better. That’s the kind of person he was,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes as she stood in the lobby of St. Anne’s Center, a local homeless shelter.
Thobe, 50, was hit and killed while crossing Wall Avenue near 26th Street on Monday night. Ogden police said Tuesday they were still investigating the accident and who was at fault. The 23-year-old driver who hit Thobe is cooperating with authorities, said Lt. Chad Ledford. Toxicology tests on both Thobe and the driver have been ordered.
“The lighting isn’t necessarily the best,” Ledford said of Wall Avenue. “You couple that with the five lanes of traffic and the speeds and there was a collision.”
Thobe is the second man to die while crossing Wall Avenue in two months. Peterson said Thobe’s best friend, David Saures, was killed on Christmas Eve while crossing Wall Ave. near Binford Street, about 300 feet away. The person who hit Saures and left him to die in the street has never been found, police said.
Peterson said Saures’ death impacted Thobe deeply.
“He was a very great guy,” she told FOX 13. “He had a really big heart. He loved life. He was having his problems because not only did he lose his best friend on Christmas Eve to the same kind of accident.”
Police and workers at the local homeless shelters acknowledge it is an ongoing problem. People walking to the shelters play a real-life version of “Frogger” to get across Wall Avenue. They cross legally or jaywalk, and sometimes vehicles slow down or speed up to get by them.
Ogden police said it is legal to cross at an unmarked intersection. Under Utah law, vehicles are supposed to yield to pedestrians. That does not happen often. FOX 13 cameras captured numerous incidents where vehicles sped on by. Numerous jaywalkers were also spotted.
It gets trickier as night sets in and people rush to the shelters to have a place to stay for the night.
“We’re afraid to cross the street anymore here on Wall Avenue because, who’s next?” Peterson said.
The Ogden Police Department had extra patrols outside the shelters on Tuesday night, pulling over speeding cars. Officers were also seen warning jaywalkers.
After Saures died, the Utah Department of Transportation, which maintains Wall Avenue, commissioned a traffic study to examine whether a crosswalk or other pedestrian safety devices would be necessary. On Tuesday, UDOT spokesman Vic Saunders said they were still awaiting the results of that traffic study.
He said Thobe’s death would factor into the results of that study — but said a crosswalk would not solve all of the problems along Wall Avenue.
“A crosswalk, in and of itself, provides a place to walk but it doesn’t make people safe. It’s a symbiotic relationship between the driver and the pedestrian,” he told FOX 13. “They have to work together. me watching for the pedestrian, the pedestrian watching for me to make sure we have a system that works for everybody.”
Friends of Daniel Thobe went to the Ogden City Council meeting on Tuesday night to plead for their intervention to make the street safer.
“There’s got to be something,” Thobe’s friend, Alonso Garcia, said. “I mean, two guys die in two months time. These are good guys with good hearts, good friends.”