Saturday, August 7, 2021

Case of Woman Found on Church Street last Month Remains Unresolved Publicly

Last month there was a strange crash report with a fatality. Many questions remain and it is not at all clear what happened. (I was holding off posting about it, hoping more details would emerge, but nothing more has come out since the 27th.)

On Friday afternoon, July 23rd, Salem Police released a bare bones notice about a fatality in a collision downtown.

The Salem Traffic Team is investigating a fatal traffic collision. Church ST between D and Union STS NE will be closed for several hours.

On Tuesday the 27th, Salem Police released more information, though many questions remained, and in fact there was, and still is, more to the story:

Salem, Ore. — On July 23, 2021, Salem Police officers responded to the 600 block of Church ST NE on a report of a traffic collision. When officers arrived, they located a woman in the road with significant injuries. Salem Fire personnel attempted lifesaving measures, but ultimately the woman died at the scene.

Officers learned the woman had been seen on the hood of a van traveling south on Church ST when she fell off and landed in the street. The van did not stop and fled the area. Officers found the van abandoned in a neighborhood nearby. A K-9 team was deployed; however, the track was unsuccessful.

Detectives, assisted by the Traffic Team, were called out to the scene which shut down Church ST for several hours.

Based on the investigation, detectives believe the driver of the vehicle is Robert Dornbusch, age 53, of Salem. Detectives ask the public for information regarding Dornbusch’s whereabouts. Anyone with information on his current location should call the Salem Police Tips line at 503-588-8477.

The identity of the victim is not being released at this time pending notification of next of kin.

The street here has a mix of road geometries and adjacent business and residents. It's also a long block with no unmarked crosswalks between Union and D Streets. 

Still, at appropriate driving speed, any mid-block or corner crossing here should not be a great problem for people on foot or for drivers. From the bare bones police statement it's just not possible say where and how driver hit the woman, though speed looks to be involved. (Stranger narratives are also possible, though less likely.)

On that stretch of Church Street Northwest Human Services operates HOAP, the Homeless Outreach and Advocacy Project, and there is usually some kind of encampment on the sidewalk there. People cross the street mid-block or may even have a crisis in the middle of the street.

There is a range of other kinds of non-profit and professional offices also, with people crossing the street mid-block also.

Plat seam with two road widths and parking styles
Looking south from the creek bridge

The street itself is wide and has diagonal parking on both sides south of the creek, then narrows significantly at the creek with parallel parking only on the east side, north of the creek.

A little north, the Knapp Place footbridge over the creek after it turns a corner and goes north, paralleling Church for a brief stretch, also makes little bit of a blind T-connection at the sidewalk.

Hopefully more will come out.

This post will likely be updated.

1 comment:

Laurie Dougherty said...

I live in an apartment on that block. Two different neighbors told me that the woman got on the car, the driver took off and she fell in the street. One person told me she was fighting with the driver. I didn't see it happen but did see the body in the middle of the street under a yellow tarp, very close to HOAP. If you click to enlarge the photo, this is right about where you can see a light-colored car in the northbound lane. I tried without success to find a more up-to-date official report, but from what I heard, this wasn't a typical traffic accident.

I don't have a car. Almost every day I bike on Church St. or cross it on foot at various points between Union and D. I hate diagonal parking, but traffic is not particularly heavy or fast here.

(A real traffic problem in this area is the intersection of Union and Liberty with nothing to control the heavy, fast-moving traffic on Liberty.)