A grandmother is dead after a GMC minivan hit her during a casual late April walk.
It happened near the corner of Lombardy St. and Greenview Dr., on South Bend’s far west side, just after 9 p.m. Monday.
Officers say Clynt Smith, 55, of South Bend, was driving southbound on Lombardy, when Maria Louis Garcia, 66, also of South Bend, walked into the street and crossed his path. Police believe she was following her two grandchildren, ages 3 and 7, toward the Navarre Middle School baseball field.
"We both just jolted out of bed because I thought it was my daughter screaming, 'mommy, mommy.’ So we got up and ran out the door. I didn't even look both ways before crossing the street. I could have gotten hit too,” Amber Findley, a Lombardy St. resident of five years, recalled.
Squad cars arrived on scene within minutes of Findley’s 911 call. Officers found Garcia lying on the blacktop unconscious, not breathing and bleeding from her head.
Findley says after the moment of impact, Smith demanded on calling his adult son and then broke down, sobbing on the ground next to Garcia’s lifeless body.
"He was just begging for her not to die right there. They tried their best, but it didn't look good when we got there, let alone when the paramedics and everyone else got there,” Findley added.
"The first responding police officers working that beat, they got there within minutes, and it sounds like there was really no chance,” Capt. Phil Trent with the South Bend Police Department said.
Paramedics transported Garcia to Memorial Hospital where she was pronounced dead. Smith was also taken to the Memorial ER for a mild panic attack.
By Tuesday afternoon, many in the neighborhood began to wonder why Garcia would have walked straight into oncoming traffic.
"Perhaps she was looking at the children and not paying attention to traffic. We don't know right now, but it seems as good a possibility as any,” Capt. Trent reasoned.
Another possibility, a lack of sunlight as the collision happened at 9:05 p.m., exactly 24 minutes after sunset on a warm April evening with increased pedestrian traffic.
Police do not think speed or alcohol played any role in crash. As for texting, it’s still too early to speculate without cell phone records in hand.
“It seems to be a classic accident. However we're trying to delve deeper into the investigation and would appreciate anybody with any information to give us a call and tell us what you saw,” Capt. Trent added.
This marks the second pedestrian fatality this month in South Bend. On April 1, a minivan hit and killed a Horner Jennings, 69, of South Bend at the corner of S. Michigan St. and W. Monroe St., near the main post office. Jennings died 12 hours later at Memorial Hospital from severe head injuries.
Anyone who witnessed the accident can call South Bend Police at: (574) 235-9818