The promised sidewalks came too late for a disabled man killed on Navarre Avenue in Oregon.
Franklin D. Dorring, 63, of Zanesville was crossing the four-lane road just east of Coy when his motorized wheelchair was hit by a 2001 Ford Mustang driven by a 16-year-old male. The incident happened at 9:26 p.m. on Sunday, August 25. According to Oregon Police Detective Ryan Spangler, it’s believed Dorring was returning from 3rd Base Party Store to Amberwood Apartments on the north side of Navarre when he was hit by the teen driving to Walmart to purchase school supplies.
The teen stated in the police report he was driving about 35 miles an hour and had just switched lanes to turn left into Walmart when he saw the man suddenly appear in front of him. He stated he immediately stopped the car after the crash and waved down a passing lady who called 9-1-1. He stated she told him to get something from his car to elevate the man’s head, which he did.
Det. Spangler stated in his report it was a clear, dark night and the pavement was dry. He said in a phone interview there was no reflective tape, or reflectors, on the wheelchair. He added, “He was also not wearing any type of reflective vest and there were no flags and no lights of any sort. It was just a black wheelchair.”
The teen was not cited as the man illegally crossed the street, not using a crosswalk.
Unfortunately, Dorring had little choice once he chose to venture out. There are no sidewalks on that portion of Navarre. That situation will be remedied this fall when the city installs sidewalks from Coy to Lallendorf.
Paul Roman, the city’s director of public service, said council approved the sidewalks last August. Property owners have been notified and the project should be bid in the next few weeks. The project will allow the disabled to access such businesses as Walmart, and Aldi’s as well as Pearson Metropark.
The wheels of government move slowly some times. In August, 2011, a group of disabled residents demonstrated on Navarre and later appeared before a council committee to express concerns they had about having to ride in the streets to access much of the city’s central business district. Petitions were then circulated among the property owners, but not enough signatures were obtained in support of the sidewalks. In August, 2012, however, council ordered the sidewalks in the interest of public safety. Estimated cost: $124,000.
At the time, Councilman Dennis Walendzak who pushed for the sidewalks, said he feared it was only a matter of time before a motorist driving down Navarre struck someone in the road. Now, in August, 2013, those fears have been realized.
Had sidewalks been in place, Dorring could have safely traveled from the Amberwood Apartments west 400 yards to 3rd Base or east to Walmart. On the other hand, Dorring could have made better choices. He could have worn reflective clothing or taken steps to make his wheelchair more visible. Or, he could have travelled during daylight.
The sight of a motorized wheelchair is not unusual along the Navarre corridor, said Det. Spangler. He patrolled the area before being promoted to Detective. On any given day, during rush hour traffic, it would not be unusual to see four or five riders. He says the area is attractive to the disabled because of the apartment complexes located there and the access to shopping.
"The majority will ride eastbound Navarre in the westbound lane of travel. They will hug the curb on the roadway. The amount of traffic at rush hour is unbelievable and you get these people riding on the street against traffic. There's no where else to go."
Dan Wilkins, public relations director for the Ability Center, said the issue of providing access to community assets such as parks and shopping will become more prevalent in the next few years as the Baby Boomers age. He said one in 10 Americans has a disability and one in a hundred use a wheelchair.
Wilkins said, "If you’re going to create welcoming communities for everyone, you’re going to have to think about all these numbers that are going to drop on us. We see disability as a natural part of the life process.”
While Dorring's death was tragic, so too is the aftermath the teen and his family are experiencing. The teen had just passed his driver’s test five weeks before the accident. His mother said, “We've talked to several counselors to get him someone to talk to because I don't want a relapse even though he is doing okay with it right now, although it has been traumatizing.
"It's unfortunate. It's just a sad situation for everyone involved, especially for the gentleman and his family."