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[Update] Investigation Concludes for Fatal Crash Near Elementary School

Released on Thursday, December 19, 2019
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The investigation into a fatal November collision near Lopez Elementary School has concluded, and a summary of the findings is provided below.

“Through an intensive review of the facts, investigators determined that a number of factors aligned and resulted in what can only be described as a tragic accident,” said FCPS Chief Jeff Swoboda. “There are no words to express our heartache for the Wolkow family, the Lopez community, and all involved in this incident.”

On November 5, 2019, a 23-year-old male was driving a 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe SUV eastbound on Wabash Street. He stopped for a stop sign at Benthaven Street. After making sure the intersection was clear of vehicles and pedestrians, the driver proceeded through the intersection, crossing Benthaven Street and driving east on Wabash Street.

Vale Wolkow, 6, and another child were standing at the northeast corner of the intersection on their way to Lopez Elementary School. They waved to a westbound driver stopped on Wabash Street, then the children proceeded toward the school. Investigators determined that Wolkow entered the crosswalk and was struck by the SUV, which was already proceeding through the intersection. The driver braked but was unable to avoid hitting the child.

A nearby nurse and School Resource Officer quickly began life-saving efforts and continued until an ambulance arrived. Wolkow was transported to an area hospital where, sadly, he died as a result of his injuries.

Individuals on three sides of the intersection reported witnessing the collision. All the witnesses reported that the SUV came to a complete stop at the stop sign. They described the intersection as clear of vehicles and pedestrians when the SUV began to cross Benthaven Street. They indicated that the SUV was crossing the intersection when Wolkow and the other child began running across Wabash Street. The witnesses said the SUV was not speeding and was accelerating normally.

A collision reconstruction analysis was completed by the Fort Collins Police CRASH (Collision Reconstruction and Scene Handling) Team. The analysis determined the SUV was already crossing the intersection when the children left the sidewalk and ran toward the school. Through the analysis, investigators were able to estimate that the SUV was traveling 14mph just before the collision. The speed limit in that area is 25mph.

The investigation concluded that neither speed, sun glare, nor distracted driving contributed to the crash. The vehicle’s driver-side pillar along the windshield likely contributed by partially blocking the driver’s view of the children.

The investigation was conducted in conjunction with the District Attorney’s Office. Based on the totality of the circumstances, including the technical crash reconstruction and independent eyewitness statements, it was determined no charges would be filed against the driver.

“This incident has sparked numerous community conversations about the safety of our youngest residents,” said Chief Swoboda. “We care about your families like we care about our own, and we’re committed to the well-being of every child in Fort Collins.”