WDBJ7 INVESTIGATES: Widow works to get safety measures along Roanoke’s Tinker Creek after husband dies in crash

WDBJ7 INVESTIGATES: Widow works to get safety measures along Roanoke’s Tinker Creek
Published: Aug. 10, 2023 at 12:35 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - A Roanoke man crashed into Tinker Creek and died from his injuries in May 2023. Three months later, his widow is fighting for safety changes.

Kirsten Schultz explained how she asked Roanoke City officials to put guard rails and safety signs along the area of Tinker Creek where her husband’s car overturned.

”I just want to do something,” Schultz said. “There’s nothing I can do to bring David back, but I don’t want anybody else going through this. It feels preventable.”

David Schultz was on his way to theatre rehearsal for a production of “Little Shop of Horrors” when, his wife Kirsten states, he took a different route than normal. As David drove down into the intersection of 13th Street and Baldwin Avenue, the car flipped into the creek. 26-year-old David passed away in the hospital, leaving behind Kirsten and his eleven-month baby, Everett.

“He [Everett] likes to watch videos of David,” Schultz said. “We have a lot of videos of David singing,”

Schultz explained how her relationship with David began on the stage.

“Four years ago today was the opening night of the show that we met, we did ‘Legally Blonde the Musical,’” Schultz said. “This month has been hard. Everett is turning one. It’s the anniversary of when we met, when we started dating. It’s been hard. I just remember him being so full of life.”

As Kirsten reflects on the anniversary, she wondered if something could have prevented her husband’s death.

“When I went down there, I was just shocked that there was nothing next to a body of water,” Schultz said.

After the crash happened, Roanoke City’s transportation division started an analysis to see if a guard rail is needed. However, the analysis has to meet certain requirements, such as the number of accidents, traffic volume and the height of the drop-off, to get Virginia Department of Transportation funding for the guard rails.

A traffic engineer with the City of Roanoke explained the area of the crash could be a candidate for guard rails, but it depends on the study results.

“It’s borderline as to whether or not that would meet the guardrail warrant, so there’s some indication that it could potentially be,” Ian Coffey said.

As you drive down 13th Street, it may be difficult to tell there’s a creek drop-off at the end of the road. There’s now a 15 MPH warning sign to let drivers know to slow down ahead of the curve.

However, the sign was not there when David’s car overturned in the creek.

“When we drove down there, there were no signs at all,” Schultz said.

When you look at the area on Google Maps from 2019, there is a warning sign before the intersection. But Roanoke Police noted it was missing at the time of the crash.

The snapshot from 2019 shows there is a warning sign before the curve.
The snapshot from 2019 shows there is a warning sign before the curve.(Google Maps)

“The police department contacted us to let us know that there was an incident and that was when we got our notification that they believe the sign was missing,” Coffey said.

A replacement sign now stands in its place.

Coffey explained there could be multiple reasons the sign was missing at the time of the crash.

“Somebody might have hit it; somebody might have taken it,” Coffey said.

“That’s just heartbreaking to think that somebody would take a sign,” Schultz said. “It seems silly, and if they’re just doing it as a prank or whatever, I’m sure they thought it wasn’t going to hurt anybody, but it did. Signs are there for a reason.”

Coffey explained that unless a citizen or traffic engineer reports a missing sign, there’s no way of knowing it’s gone.

“We rely heavily on our citizens to let us know,” Coffey said. “It would have been good to know that the sign was missing.”

“If he [David] had seen the 15 mile-an-hour sign, he probably would have slowed down,” Schultz said. “That definitely would have helped.”

It’s now been three months since the crash, and so far, only the warning signs have been put up.

“I do think the biggest help is going to be something blocking the water,” Schultz said. “It’s something to stop the vehicle or at least slow it down.”

Schultz explained she will continue to fight for David and safety in Roanoke.

“I definitely think it falls on the city to implement these safety measures,” Schultz said. “But I think it’s also a community issue that if you see there’s something unsafe, report it.”

Schultz will also continue to keep David’s memory alive for Everett.

“His first love, his biggest love, was being on stage,” Schultz said. “I hope people continue to remember him as a performer, and not just as the guy who died in a car accident. Because that’s not who he was to us.”

Roanoke transportation officials told WDBJ7 the guard rail analysis should be done by the end of August. Officials will make a decision if guard rails will go along Tinker Creek at the end of the month.

WDBJ7 will check back in with transportation city officials at the end of August to see what else is being done to make that area safer.

If you believe there is a missing sign in city limits, there are multiple ways to let officials know. You can call the transportation division at 540-853-2676, fill out a form on the webpage or report it on the iRoanoke app.