The 27-year-old driver in the fatal crash that killed four pedestrians in Fountain Hills was looking down, speeding and using his phone seconds before the collision, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday.
Alex Bashaw has been charged with four counts of manslaughter for the March 13 collision and will be extradited from his home in Ohio to Phoenix to face the charges, MCSO said.
At about 9:12 a.m. on March 13, Bashaw was driving a 1998 Ford Explorer SUV north on Saguaro Boulevard near Palisades Boulevard in Fountain Hills, said Sgt. Joaquin Enriquez, a Sheriff’s Office spokesman.
4th Fountain Hills crash victim dies in Canada
Investigators determined he was traveling at about 53 mph in a 35 mph zone, Enriquez said, in a statement released by MCSO on Wednesday.
The SUV hopped a curb, striking pedestrians who legally were walking westbound in the intersection’s south crosswalk near Saguaro and Palisades boulevards, officials said.
Three of the pedestrians died at the scene. They were identified as 60-year-old Patti Doornbos, of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, 72-year-old Robert Bonta and 71-year-old Karen Bonta, both of Iowa.
Doornbos’ husband, 60-year-old Ronald Doornbos, also of Calgary, was initially the crash’s only surviving victim. He was in intensive care in a Phoenix-area hospital before being taken to a Canadian hospital in a medically induced coma, where he died from severe head and internal injuries in June.
The Arizona Republic has requested the full report on the crash from MCSO, but it has not yet been provided.
Driver charged in crash that killed 4
In its statement released Wednesday, MCSO said Bashaw told deputies that he “looked down while driving and did not know why he drove off the road,” Enriquez said.
After the vehicle hit the curb, Bashaw told deputies, he saw the people on the sidewalk and he steered to avoid them, Enriquez said.
Bashaw told deputies he was not using his cellphone at the time of the collision, saying it was in a cradle, in hands-free mode. However, investigators determined he was “involved with his cellphone within seconds” of the first pedestrian being hit, Enriquez said.
A search warrant showed a 55-second call placed on Bashaw’s phone at 9:11 a.m., less than a minute before the collision, Enriquez said.
A local business’s security camera captured the collision and showed the traffic signals for Saguaro Boulevard change to red about 12 seconds prior to the first collision, Enriquez said.
MCSO IDs 3 dead, 1 hurt in Fountain Hills crash
Investigators believe Bashaw was traveling at a minimum of 41 mph when he struck the first pedestrians, who were about 40 feet beyond the stop marking at the intersection, Enriquez said.
At that speed, investigators believe Bashaw would not have been able to stop for the red light, Enriquez said.
Investigators believe Bashaw’s driving behavior was reckless based on various conditions that included: the unreasonable and imprudent speed of the vehicle, the failure to stay in the traffic lane, the failure to stop for a red traffic signal and the pedestrians’ right of way at a crosswalk, Enriquez said.
3 dead, 1 injured in Fountain Hills crash
Bashaw remained at the scene after the crash and even jumped out of his vehicle, running over to begin CPR on two of the pedestrians until fire personnel directed him to stop, Enriquez said.
Bashaw was examined at the scene and it was determined that he was not impaired, Enriquez said.
Enriquez added that Bashaw has a history of drug use. Maricopa County court records show two previous cases, in 2012 and 2013, involving drug-related offenses to which he pleaded guilty.
Bashaw is expected to be extradited within the next three weeks, Enriquez said.