Police have not located a vehicle believed to have fled from the scene of an accident Sunday afternoon that left a Conway teen seriously injured and are asking anyone who witnessed the accident to come forward.
The accident happened just before 1:30 p.m. when a 16-year-old motorcyclist attempted to turn left from Lower Ridge Road onto Highway 65. He was struck by a northbound sedan, sending his body careening into the southbound lane where he was struck by another vehicle, a truck, according to witnesses.
He was taken from the scene by helicopter to Arkansas Children’s Hospital, where he was listed in critical condition Monday afternoon.
The driver of the sedan stopped. The driver of the truck did not.
Police are unsure of the description of this southbound vehicle. After talking to eyewitnesses, police believed it to be a pickup truck pulling some sort of camper-type trailer, but a review of footage of Highway 65 taken by a nearby hotel’s security camera, which gives a view of Highway 65 but not the accident itself, shows a box truck, similar in style a moving or delivery van, travel southbound after the accident temporarily stopped almost all traffic.
Police have viewed this footage, Conway Police Department public information officer Sharen Carter said, but hadn’t yet picked up a copy of it from the hotel Monday.
In the hours after the accident police in the Maumelle area stopped a pickup truck matching the description given by some witnesses. Lt. Danny Moody of CPD said the driver of this vehicle wasn’t arrested. A trailer was also found in the Highway 65 Walmart parking lot that police believed Sunday may have been abandoned by the driver who struck the teen, but no further action was taken, according to Conway Chief of Police A.J. Gary.
Eyewitness William Cargile of Texas described the southbound vehicle as a "truck with camper" in his written statement included in a preliminary accident report released Monday. When contacted for further comment Monday, he said that as the rider was being thrown into the southbound lane the truck’s front wheel hit, but did not run over, his helmet, knocking him back into the turning lane. He also said that from what he saw it was conceivable that the driver of this vehicle "may not have had any idea" that he had struck the teen and that the impact may have left no trace on the vehicle.
Cargile and another witness, Brandi Bass of Harrison, said they saw this truck stop a short distance away and its occupants get out and look back towards the crash site before getting back in and driving away.
The driver of the sedan that struck the teen, 30-year-old Jamie Wilmeth of Conway, wrote in her statement that "there was not way that I could stop the vehicle" after the teen "came out from the side road right in front of my car."
The Lower Ridge Road/Highway 65 intersection where the accident happened is problematic, according to City Engineer Ronnie Hall.
"It’s a hazard for left turn movement from Lower Ridge onto the highway," he said,because of the high traffic volume on both roads and absence of a traffic signal.
When the Conway Towne Centre shopping center was built off Highway 65 a few hundred feet from Lower Ridge Road, a traffic signal was put in place to handle the additional traffic, Hall explained. With the advent of the Don Owen Sports Complex on Lower Ridge Road in 1994, traffic volume rose on this road to what Hall said is now about 4,700 vehicles per day.
With the Lower Ridge Road traffic feeding into Highway 65’s approximately 31,500-vehicle-per-day traffic, Hall said, a traffic signal should be required, but this isn’t possible due to the existing Towne Centre traffic signal being only a few hundred feet away. If a traffic signal was built, Hall said, vehicles would "stack" between them likely resulting in gridlock.
Since December 2007, there have been 38 accidents at this intersection, according to Carter.
By way of comparison, Carter said there have been 46 accidents at the intersection of Highway 65 and Highway 64, which Hall said both have daily traffic counts of over 30,000.
An effective fix, Hall said, would be to build a short city street giving Lower Ridge Road traffic, possibly only traffic intending to turn left, access to the Town Centre’s access road and traffic signal.
"We just need the money and an easement from the owner of that lot to get started," Hall said. "It’s cost a couple hundred thousand, but we’ve so far not been able to get the easement."
Hall said the owner of this lot in northeast portion of the Towne Centre has been "asked point-blank" to allow the city an easement to construct a street through what is currently an alley and the northern extremity of a parking lot, but has refused.
Anyone who witnessed the accident and has not yet provided police a statement or anyone with information pertaining to the accident are urged to contact CPD at 450-6120.
(Staff writer Joe Lamb can be reached at 505-1238 or by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit.)