Pedestrian Deaths Soar in Vancouver with Legal Pot

A driver was stoned when he hit 7-year old Cadence Boyer on Halloween in Vancouver, Washington. She died two days later. The car had jumped the curb when it crashed into the trick-or-treaters. The little girl’s mother and her 6-year old friend were also hospitalized, but survived. The friend’s mother ended up in intensive care and was in critical condition. It wasn’t a fun way to spend Halloween, and for Cadence there will be no more Halloweens.

The driver, 47-year old Duane C. Abbot told police that he smokes two to three grams of marijuana a day, and that he had smoked about a few hours before the crash.  Where is MADD in warning against stoned driving?  The state of Colorado had aired television commercials to warn against driving while high.  Washington followed suit last June, but it hasn’t been enough.

Mothers come together to remember 7-year old who died tragically after being struck on the sidewalk in Vancouver, WA by a stoned driver.  Photo: Oregonlive
Community members come together to remember 7-year old who died tragically after being struck on the sidewalk in Vancouver, WA by a stoned driver. Photo: Oregonlive

Two Accidents on Vancouver Mall Drive

Just five weeks later, on December 8 at 11 a.m., an erratic driver went over the sidewalk on Vancouver Mall Drive, around 11 a.m. where there were 2 pedestrians. Fifty-seven year old Anita Walker died immediately. Matthew Purifoy, 33, has been arrested and at the time of his first court date on December 19, a toxicology report may be ready.

Police did not track down the driver who killed two pedestrians back on January 19, 2014,  in time for the drug and alcohol testing.  That accident also happened on Vancouver Mall Drive.  At the time, pedestrians had the right of way in the crosswalk. The driver ran a red light.  The force of the crash propelled one woman 66 feet and the other 35 feet out of the crosswalk. Brandon Smith, 28, drove from the scene and was not apprehended until several days later.

Extremely erratic driving, would suggest that he was both drunk and stoned, as marijuana and alcohol have a synergistic relationship which makes each more intense. Smith eventually got a lawyer, turned himself in and pled guilty. Smith’s mother is charge with tampering with witnesses and is scheduled to be tried February 9 on those charges.

Raisa Mosh, 45, who died immediately, was the mother of four and an immigrant from Moldava. Her friend, Irina Gardinant, 28, mother of a 2-year old, died in the hospital the next day.  Mosh’s son sustained injuries.  Smith was sentenced December 12. He will serve up to 8-1/2 years in prison for two counts of vehicular homicide, one count of vehicular assault and one count of hit-and-run death. He claims to feel a great deal of remorse.

Scotty Rowles was high when he hit a pedestrian in Vancouver on December 12, 2012, at 5:50 p.m.   Donald Collins was pronounced dead almost immediately.  At first there wasn’t enough evidence to charge him at the time of the accident. He admitted to smoking a little bowl 1-1/2 hours before the crash.  It has been legal to smoke marijuana in Washington for exactly one week at the time, but it was not legal to get behind the wheel and drive stoned. Rowles was charged with vehicular homicide in January of this year.  Testing for stoned driving takes considerable time.

Vancouver is a city of broad boulevards, malls and movie theatres. It’s a short distance north of Portland, OR. There are only around 160,000 residents, but in a short while it’s become known as a place where pedestrians can easily get killed.  Colorado has also seen a surge of drugged driving deaths since legalization.