Federal Suit Alleges Las Vegas Bus Stop Shelters Too Close to Busy Roads

July 18, 2016

A man who lost a leg at age 15 when he was struck by a vehicle as he sat on a Las Vegas, Nev., bus stop bench is suing for damages, saying that the shelters were built dangerously close to busy roads.

Conan Obenchain alleges in a federal lawsuit that putting a shelter 3 feet from the curb creates a foreseeable danger to the public.

Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada spokeswoman Angela Castro and Clark County spokesman Erik Pappa declined Friday to comment on the lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas. Both cited policies against commenting on cases in court.

But Castro acknowledged the RTC knows that many bus stop benches and shelters are close to the road.

The agency has about 3,400 bus stops in and around Las Vegas, including about 2,000 with shelters or a bench. About half are less than 5 feet from the curb.

Castro said the commission has spent almost $22 million since 2008 to upgrade and move shelters back 5 feet from the curb, and another 150 shelters are slated to be moved this year. But she said many can’t be moved because of block walls and uncooperative property owners.

“We are now working to go a step further by investigating technology options to improve pedestrian safety,” she said.

A Las Vegas first-grade teacher, now 30, is serving a six-to-15 year prison sentence after pleading guilty to drunken driving in the crash that injured Obenchain in February 2012.

The lawsuit doesn’t name the driver as a defendant. It was first reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. It seeks unspecified medical costs and compensatory and punitive damages greater than $10,000.

Obenchain’s attorney, Leslie Mark Stovall, declined Friday to comment.

The filing focuses on the positioning of the bus stop on Spring Mountain Road, a little under 2 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip; points to at least one other crash involving the same shelter; and cites a “significant and forseeable risk.”

It says officials conducted at least one previous safety study about bus stops, and that continuing to use the shelter where Obenchain was hurt “demonstrated a deliberate and conscious disregard of the dangerous condition,” and violated Obenchain’s 14th Amendment rights to be free from danger created by the agency and county.

There have been several deadly crashes at RTC bus stops in recent years, including two in 2016.

– On Feb. 4, Jason Donahue, 68, died after a car veered over a median and hit him at a bus stop on West Lake Mead Boulevard. Donahue was in a wheelchair.

– On Jan. 9, Jooyoung Do, 39, was struck and killed by a bus that plowed through a passenger shelter on Tropicana Avenue. The bus driver, Jamal Nichols, 22, was fired and has pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and failure to maintain his lane charges.

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