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Ravell Call, Deseret News
Law enforcement investigate a pedestrian accident involving a UTA bus at the intersection of 400 South and 200 East in Salt Lake City, Tuesday morning, Feb. 21, 2012.

SALT LAKE CITY — A prominent businessman honored for his contributions to revitalizing downtown Salt Lake City was hit and killed by a Utah Transit Authority bus Tuesday.

Richard Wirick, 82, who was known as "Mr. Downtown," died after being hit and pinned under a bus for nearly 45 minutes.

The accident happened about 7:30 a.m. near 400 South and 200 East.

Wirick was walking in a crosswalk across the intersection when the traffic light turned green before he made it to the other side, Salt Lake Police Sgt. Shawn Josephson said. The first two lanes of traffic stopped and waited for the man to finish crossing.

"For an unknown reason, the bus was unable to stop and struck the male," Josephson said.

The bus, which had just completed a run from Ogden to Salt Lake City, was headed to the UTA garage and did not have any passengers on board. The driver was placed on standard paid administrative leave and will have a drug and alcohol test per UTA policy, UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter said.

Last July, Wirick was honored by the Downtown Alliance for exceptional contributions to the community. He owned and managed the Oxford Shop shoe store. In receiving the award, his "dedication and commitment" to the business environment were noted.

In 2006, he was given the title "Mr. Downtown" by the Vest Pocket Coalition. The coalition called him "a downtown revitalization specialist and is the heart and 'sole' of optimism. ... He is a great defender of locally owned businesses working hard for their best interests."

Wirick had been a fixture in the downtown business community for decades. Aside from being the owner of the longest thriving men's shoe store in Salt Lake City, he also served with several local civic organizations.

Downtown Alliance executive director Jason Mathis described Wirick as "very hopeful, enthusiastic and forward-looking."

"One of his greatest legacies will be a sense of optimism and hope for the future of our larger community," he said. "It's really a sad day for downtown."

Mathis said that even through some dark times in downtown's history, Wirick never lost faith.

"He always saw a bright future for our community," Mathis said.

In 2011, Wirick was honored with an Achievement Award from the Downtown Alliance, in recognition of his exceptional contributions to downtown.

He was "clearly downtown's biggest champion," Mathis said, adding that no one loved downtown more or cared more about downtown's success.

Mathis said Wirick was often heard to say, “One person alone may not accomplish much, but if that person can help unite the civic organizations, city officials and church leaders to work towards a common goal, miracles can be achieved. We can then truly create one of the finest downtowns in all of America.”

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com, jlee@desnews.com

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