PROVO — A Provo woman was charged Thursday with killing a bicyclist by pushing him into the path of an oncoming FrontRunner train.
Maria Fregoso-Avina, 49, was charged with negligent homicide, a class A misdemeanor, and other charges in the Feb. 15 incident that led to the death of Douglas Crow, 69. She appeared in 4th District Court Thursday to face the criminal charges.
Investigators said the woman's windshield was covered with frost, except for a small circle in front of the driver's seat, when her SUV struck Crow, pushing him onto the train tracks near 700 West and 600 South in Provo.
Fregoso-Avina was making a left turn when the railroad crossing arms went down behind her vehicle, according to a police affidavit filed in 4th District Court. She told police she saw the Frontrunner train approaching and accelerated to get over the tracks.
"Maria felt that she had struck something but did not know what because she never saw anything," the affidavit states. "Maria had struck a bicyclist pulling a bike trailer, and the bicyclist was (dragged) onto the train tracks."
The conductor of the FrontRunner train saw "debris" on the tracks and initiated his emergency brakes but was unable to stop before striking the man. Fregoso-Avina remained at the scene, according to the affidavit.
Crow, an avid cyclist, had been stopped on his bicycle when he was hit. He died at the scene. He often rode his bike to work, though he had taken that day off of work. He was set to retire this year after 30 years as a custodian at BYU, his family said.
Crow was the father of seven children who loved the outdoors, according to his obituary. He also loved collecting antique bottles, holding yard sales and writing.
"Above all, his favorite pastimes were spending time with his family — including his dog, Elvis," the obituary states.
At a gathering Wednesday night, Crow's youngest son, Allen Crow, said the family is trying not to focus on the circumstances of his father's death, but celebrating his life.
"That's something we may have to deal with later," Allen Crow said. "Now we're focusing on the life of my father and the importance of and effect he had on so many people's lives and that we loved him."
He said his father was very familiar with the area, including the train tracks, which are near his parents' home. Still, he said he feels badly for the driver of the vehicle.
"That's a traumatic experience for everyone involved — the witnesses, the people driving that car — and I just feel bad that that's something that they can't erase," he said. "That's something that they have to live with for the rest of their life. My heart goes out to them as well as to anybody who had to witness it."
He said five of his six siblings were at his mother's home within an hour of hearing about his father's death. He said they have been greatly supported by friends and neighbors and, while all are dealing with the death in different ways, they are at peace that there is a "greater plan."
"I think we'll move on and live our lives, because we know that's what he would want us to do," Allen Crow said. "We're definitely going to have a hole in our lives for the rest of our lives and my children are going to miss their grandchildren and I'm going to miss my father. It's a hole that's there that's not going to be filled ever, but it's something we realize we just have to work through."
In addition to negligent homicide, Fregoso-Avina is also charged with two class C misdemeanors: improper lookout and operating an unsafe, improperly equipped vehicle on a public highway.
Provo Police Lt. Mathew Siufanua said that the woman had a driver's license that appeared to be valid, but could not be verified in an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement database. Provo police had contacted the agency to check some of the information provided by the woman.
"As we talked to them and we gave them what she had, none of the information that she had actually was on their records," Siufanua said. "They actually came down, spoke to her, did an interview with her and then actually took custody of her and booked her into Utah County Jail on an immigration hold."
The woman was released by a federal judge, but was booked a second time in connection with Crow's death and remained in Utah County Jail Thursday.6 comments on this story
Siufanua said the incident is a reminder for all motorists to keep their windshields clear in spite of the winter weather.
"The biggest factor in this is that obstructed view," Siufanua said. "This is a pretty serious consequence for such a simple thing we can do. ... This is a huge lesson for everybody. During these times when it's really cold like this, you've got to make sure you scrape your windows and know exactly what you can see in front of you."
Contributing: Andrew Wittenberg, Sam Penrod