The Tulare County coroner’s office announced Thursday that it has identified a pedestrian who was struck and killed Tuesday on Highway 63 near Visalia.
• A pedestrian in a wheelchair attempted to cross a four-lane street/highway at an intersection.
• An unlicensed driver in a Jeep SUV didn’t see the man at first and then panicked, hitting the gas pedal instead of the brake.
• The Jeep slammed into the wheelchair, knocking the man to the ground. He died from his injuries.
The California Highway Patrol said a pedestrian in a wheelchair — later identified as 86-year-old Benjamin Laigo of Orosi — was attempting to cross Highway 63 at the intersection with Miller Road at the time of the accident.
CHP Officer Chris Wright told the Visalia Times-Delta that Laigo was in an unmarked crosswalk when he was struck and killed by a 1991 Jeep Cherokee traveling northbound on Highway 63 at about 35 mph.
“He was right at the intersection,” Wright said.
Wright said the driver of the Jeep, 52-year-old Julio Dominguez of Cutler, told officers he didn’t see Laigo in the street until his 8-year-old grandson shouted, “Watch out!”
Dominguez then panicked and stepped on the accelerator instead of the brake, Wright said. The Jeep slammed into the wheelchair, throwing Laigo onto the road.
The 86-year-old victim was airlifted to Tulare Regional Medical Center (in the city of Tulare), where he died from the injuries he suffered in the accident.
Dominguez was not arrested at the scene, Wright said, but he was visibly distraught.
“He was pretty shaken up about it,” Wright said. “He made a mistake.”
Wright said the CHP would request that the District Attorney’s Office file charges against Dominguez, including misdemeanor manslaughter, driving without a license, and felony failure to yield to a pedestrian.
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