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Girl hit by car in Corvallis dies of her injuries
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Girl hit by car in Corvallis dies of her injuries

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The girl who was struck by a car while crossing a busy street in Corvallis on Wednesday night has died, the Corvallis Police Department reported on Friday.

Rhiana Daniel, 11, of Corvallis was in the crosswalk in the 1000 block of South Third Street at 6:43 p.m. when she was hit by a 2015 Nissan Leaf that was driving south, the department said in a news release Friday afternoon. Daniel was taken to Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center for treatment of critical injuries, but she died late Thursday night, the department said.

Police said the driver of the vehicle, Peter Eschwey, 45, of Corvallis, is cooperating with investigators.

The investigation is continuing, and police are working with the Benton County District Attorney’s Office to determine whether charges may be warranted.

People who may have witnessed the incident are asked to call Detective Ty Volin at 541-766-6924.

Police have released few details so far about the circumstances of the case.

The incident occurred on a busy four-lane stretch of Third Street (which doubles as Highway 99W) one block south of the Marys River, where the speed limit is 25 mph. It was after dark on a rainy night.

Daniel, who lived in the neighborhood, was in a marked crosswalk that runs between Papa's Pizza and the First Alternative Co-op.

The crosswalk is equipped with flashing yellow lights that can be activated by the user, but it’s not yet clear whether the lights were flashing when Daniel was hit by the car.

She was the third traffic fatality in that location in the past year and a half. Bicyclist Eric Austin died after being struck by a car in June 2018, and Jeremy Gruver died in similar circumstances last October.

Daniel was crossing the road at one of four enhanced crosswalks installed along South Third Street in 2006. In addition to user-activated warning lights, the crosswalks are striped and have raised concrete refuge islands built in the median.

In the wake of earlier fatalities and near-misses, however, pedestrian and bicycle advocates have called for additional safety improvements in the area, and some are underway.

The Oregon Department of Transportation has painted green and white markings on the east side of the road in an effort to increase safety for bicyclists and pedestrians trying to connect with the multi-use path that runs under the highway bridge spanning the Marys River. A project to move that section of the path off the roadway is in the works and is tentatively scheduled for completion in October.

In addition, ODOT is planning upgrades to the flashing lights at the four enhanced crosswalks to make them more visible to drivers.

On Friday, Benton County District Attorney John Haroldson issued a statement calling for urgent action to make the intersection safer (see sidebar with this story).

Other people expressed similar sentiments throughout the day.

Early Friday morning, before word of Rhiana Daniel’s death was officially announced, there were plans for a vigil at the scene of the accident.

For at least part of the day, the Corvallis Police Department had a patrol vehicle stationed at the intersection to monitor traffic. One driver was pulled over for an unknown infraction while a reporter watched.

By midafternoon, shortly after the official announcement was made, Dan Rockwell had arrived on the scene with a hand-lettered protest sign that read “Fix the Lights.” Rockwell pointed out that there were no flashing yellow lights in the pedestrian island in the middle of the crosswalk, just a single blinker on either side of the road.

He said he believed the center flashers had been removed after being damaged in a car accident last summer and had never been replaced. That information could not be immediately confirmed Friday night.

“I’m out here to raise attention to the missing safety equipment in the middle of the road,” Rockwell said.

Rockwell added that he’s a bicyclist who lives in the neighborhood and he’s concerned about the intersection.

“This is kind of my backyard,” he said. “I had to do something.”

Throughout the day, a makeshift memorial to Rhiana Daniel took shape in the middle of the crosswalk, where people had placed bouquets of flowers.

As darkness fell, Rachel Hisden and her friend Chelsea Banks set up several large sprays of artificial flowers and a number of small crosses on the pedestrian island.

Hisden said she knew the girl’s family and wanted to express her sympathy. She also wanted to focus the public’s attention on safety problems at the intersection.

“I’m trying to do it for purposes of avoidance,” she said. “I don’t want anybody else’s kid to get killed.”

At Friday night's Crescent Valley-Corvallis High School girls basketball game, Daniel was remembered with a moment of silence.

Reporter Bennett Hall can be contacted at bennett.hall@lee.net or 541-812-6111. Follow him on Twitter at @bennetthallgt.

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Special Projects Editor, Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald

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