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Mercer Island student hit in notorious crosswalk

Students sprint across the crosswalk at Island Crest Way and S.E. 42nd Street, where a student riding his bike across the street was hit last week. There have been previous pedestrian/vehicle accidents in the area. - Jenny Manning/Staff Photo
Students sprint across the crosswalk at Island Crest Way and S.E. 42nd Street, where a student riding his bike across the street was hit last week. There have been previous pedestrian/vehicle accidents in the area.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Staff Photo

It’s hard to be anonymous in a small town, and that’s a good thing sometimes.

When Mercer Island High School freshman Alec Langston was hit by a car on his way home from school last week, there were many people there to help.

Just as Langston rolled from the hood of the Mercedes that struck him in the crosswalk in the 4200 block of Island Crest Way, Carolyn Wootten, a longtime family friend and coincidentally Langston’s emergency contact at school, was just four or five cars back.

“I saw the traffic was slowing and assumed the cars were waiting for someone to cross,” she said. “And all of a sudden he was rolling on the ground.”

Wootten put her car in park, flipped on the hazard lights and ran to Langston and began assessing the situation by asking where he hurt.

Langston was struck just after 3 p.m. Tuesday while in a crosswalk in the 4200 block of Island Crest Way, according to Cmdr. Leslie Burns of the Mercer Island Police Department.

The driver, 72-year-old Charles Hansing of Mercer Island, did not stop for the teen as he rode his bike across Island Crest Way, according to the police report. Hansing was in the outside lane of Island Crest, heading north when the collision occurred. Cars in the three other lanes had already stopped.

The driver just didn’t see him,” Burns said.

Hansing was cited for the accident.

The impact threw the teen into the car’s windshield, which was caved-in and “cracked everywhere” and send both shoes flying from his feet,Wootten said.

She dialed Alec’s mother and her good friend, Lori Langston, at home. No answer. She then tried her cell. No answer.

“I just sat with him until the paramedics got there and then I let them do their job,” she said.

Islander Duffy Glazer tapped Wootten on the shoulder to reminder her that her car was still in the road. Luckily, Wootten said, their daughters had been on the basketball team together and Glazer offered to move the car and take her daughter home while Wootten stayed with Langston.

“Gosh, it sure worked out so that I could help Alec, and they could help me,” Wootten said of Glazer and others at the scene who helped the after-accident chaos unwind a little more smoothly.

Langston’s younger sister eventually answered the phone at home, and then notified her mother, who was helping out at Islander Middle School. In the meantime Wootten stayed with Langston on the way to the hospital until his mother could arrive.

Langston, who was wearing a bicycle helmet, was taken to Overlake Hospital in Bellevue for minor injuries and returned to school Thursday.

Lori Langston said later that knowing her good friend was there made it a bit easier for her to negotiate the drive to the scene. “I am so thankful to everyone,” she said.

Tuesday’s incident wasn’t the first car-versus-pedestrian collision at the crosswalk near S.E. 42nd Street on Island Crest Way. In June 2005, a car struck Steve Ybarra as he used the same crosswalk as Langston. Ybarra sued the city for negligence to improve pedestrian safety in the area. He won $22,000, but the jury also found Ybarra partially to blame for the accident.

During the 2007 trial, City Engineer Patrick Yamashita testified the city had changed the crosswalk design from two parallel strips to “piano key” stripping, used reflective paint, installed reflectors on both sides and changed the color of nearby warning signs from yellow to fluorescent green to improve pedestrian safety prior to the 2005 accident.

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