A former Salt Lake City safety-program coordinator is lashing out at the city's airport management, saying a "disregard for public safety" resulted in an auto-pedestrian accident in June that killed a Maryland woman.
In a letter sent Friday to Mayor Ralph Becker and other city officials, Ian Shepherd blasts airport management for dismissing his concerns about airport crosswalks in a safety committee meeting July 16 six days before Patricia Dawn Jordan, 65, was killed outside Terminal Two.
"The managers failed to listen to the safety professional ... resulting in the death of Mrs. Jordan," Shepherd states in the letter.
Shepherd, an airport employee for about eight months, walked off the job Aug. 10, he said, because his safety concerns were not being taken seriously. He officially resigned his post this week, citing Jordan's death as the reason.
"That was the deal-breaker for me," he told the Deseret News. "Since she died, I've been inconsolable. ... Nobody can say I was wrong. Somebody died six days after I told them they would."
Jordan, of Oxford, Md., was hit by an SUV while using an airport crosswalk July 22 and died the next day.
The driver of the vehicle, Evelini Kinikini, 27, of Salt Lake City, was charged with negligent homicide, a Class A misdemeanor. Kinikini pleaded not guilty to the charge Friday in 3rd District Court.
Shepherd says the tragedy could have been avoided by employing crossing guards to regulate traffic at busy areas. Engineers also should be considering other above- and below-ground options for airport crosswalks, he said.
Salt Lake City International Airport spokeswoman Barbara Gann said the accident has been "an emotional situation for everyone involved," including Shepherd. His allegations that safety is being disregarded at the airport, however, are unfounded, Gann said.
"We have an outstanding safety record," she said. "We work in an environment where safety is everyone's job."
The airport already has flashing yellow lights and signs near busy crosswalks and uses reflective paint for the markings, Gann said. Speed bumps and graduated speed limits also slow traffic as it approaches terminals.
Gann said Shepherd's complaints thus far have been "sweeping generalities without any specifics.
"If he wants to give some detail time, place and some specifics we would be happy to look into that," she said.
In the letter, Shepherd calls for an independent safety survey of the airport, with regards to its contractors, vendors and infrastructure.
"I think what will come out of that is the public will be horrified at the safety conditions at the airport," he said in an interview.
In addition to unsafe crosswalks, Shepherd said the lack of a fire-sprinkler system in Terminal One needs to be addressed, as well as airplane-fueling procedures that allow fuel hoses to be dragged across the tarmac.
"All it takes is one spark," he said.
Salt Lake City Councilman Eric Jergensen said Shepherd's concerns will be explored, and "if there are areas where we can improve, we'll do that.
"But I don't think anyone can question our commitment to safety," Jergensen said.
Mayor Becker has received a copy of the letter but has not had time to respond, said city spokeswoman Helen Langan. Becker and the city's redevelopment agency leadership are on a redevelopment and transit tour this week in Seattle; Portland, Ore.; and Vancouver, British Columbia.
"The city takes all questions about safety at the airport very seriously," Langan said.Shepherd said he plans to lobby state legislators and city leaders "to make the airport a safe place and the management accountable to the public."