A family was devastated Monday in the street in front of Eckstein Middle School.
A mother and her infant child are in critical condition. The infant’s grandparents, Judy and Dennis Schulte, were killed immediately.
Just moments earlier, the Schultes stopped to chat with Lacia Lynne Bailey, who lives at the intersection. Bailey has a newborn pet goat, and the family stopped to chat and marvel.
“We were just bantering and joking and having a beautiful day,” Bailey told the Seattle Times.
Less than a minute later, as the family was crossing NE 75th St, Mark Mullen struck all four of them with his pickup truck. Another nearby neighbor saw the bodies of Judy and Dennis strewn about the street, a mother with infant in a sling thrown against the curb, and told the Times she thought there must have been a shooting.
But there were no gunshots. The family was destroyed by a man who was allegedly intoxicated and decided to get behind the wheel despite having at least two previous drunk driving arrests on his record already.
Firefighters, medics, police officers and journalists who arrived at the scene were shaken by the horrific scene they found.
“These are family members, fathers, mothers and they have kids, and it hits them hard,” the Seattle Fire Department’s Kyle Moore told the Times. “You do your professional job while you’re treating these patients and taking care of the situation, but they’re people, too, and it affects them.”
The street where the Schulte family was devastated runs in front of Nathan Eckstein Middle School, which has been very active recently in promoting biking and walking to school. The Northeast Seattle Greenways group has noted the stretch of street as a candidate for safety improvements, and the draft Bicycle Master Plan update recommends the street for a safety upgrade.
While Monday’s tragedy is particularly shocking, death and injury on our city’s streets, even in front of Seattle schools, is far too common. Earlier this year, a crossing guard at Ballard’s Salmon Bay Elementary was struck doing his job, a post he has held since his daughter was struck in the very same crosswalk years earlier.
NW 65th St in front of Salmon Bay Elementary is very similar to NE 75th St in front of Eckstein and many, many other streets in front of many other Seattle schools: Dangerous with few safe crosswalks, bike lanes or impediments to speeding.
Mark Mullen stands a good chance of getting the book thrown at him, as a repeat offender should if found guilty. But that won’t bring back Judy and Dennis, and it will do almost nothing to prevent another tragedy in front of another school next week, next month or next year.
We have the tools to minimize death and injury on our streets. We have neighborhood groups all across the city pushing for more funding for safe streets and Safe Routes to School, but the city and state invest effectively nothing into those programs.
We cannot prevent someone from driving drunk, but we can make it as difficult as possible for a drunk or simply inattentive person to do this kind of damage to another family.
In the wake of the collision in front of Salmon Bay Elementary, we suggested that the city and/or state set a bold-but-achievable goal: Zero dangerous streets within a block of any school by the end of 2013.
Because I can’t bear to write another story like this one. Our firefighters can’t bear to go to another scene like this one. And the Schulte family deserved better.
UPDATE: The Seattle Times has details on how you can donate to help the family:
Funds for the victims have been set up at Homestreet Bank’s Wedgwood branch:
Karina & Elias Ulriksen-Schulte Medical Fund, account no.: 5322733430; routing no.: 325084426.
Dennis & Judy Schulte Memorial Fund, account no.: 5388871396; routing no.: 325084426.