Ravell Call, Deseret News
MILLCREEK— Residents along 700 East near 3100 South say they would often see Raymond Nielson cross the busy street in his motorized wheelchair.
One woman said neighbors had urged him not to cross in the middle of the heavily traveled road, but he preferred to take the most direct route between his temporary residence on the west side of 700 East to a relative's house on the east side. That involved crossing 700 East at a part of the road where there is no intersection or crosswalk.
About 6:20 p.m. Wednesday, Nielson, 59, was struck by a car near 3065 S. 700 East. Witnesses say he was thrown from his wheelchair into the median. The wheelchair, which may have been struck again by a second car, was demolished. Nielson died a short time later at a local hospital.
Thursday, orange paint and other markings where detectives investigated the accident scene remained on the road as a reminder of what happened.
The driver who police say hit Nielson, a man in his 70s driving a Lincoln Town Car, didn't immediately stop. He continued to 3100 South and 640 East, parked his car, then walked backed to the scene of the accident and told police he believed he'd hit something in the road. The man apparently did not realize he had hit a wheelchair.
The accident remained under investigation and no citations had been issued as of Thursday.
Although Nielson was pulling or pushing a small cart with his belongings in it as he traveled, police said Thursday he did not live on the street. He was "homeless" in the sense he didn't have a house of his own and often stayed with friends or family. But neighbors said he had a place to stay each night.
Unified police detective Ken Hansen said the former veteran was recently accepted to board at the VA Hospital.
Neighbors say Nielson would regularly cross 700 East to visit a relative's house, though the relationship was unclear Thursday. The Deseret News contacted Nielson's brother in Salt Lake County Thursday at his home far away from the accident scene. He said he was busy making funeral arrangements and declined to be interviewed.
Nielson had a minor criminal history dating back to the '90s, according to Utah state court records. He was convicted of DUI in 2005 and simple assault in 2004. Most recently, he was charged with vehicle burglary and theft in a case that was still pending in 3rd District Court.
Nielson would have turned 60 on Saturday.
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