PROVO — The woman accused of hitting a Provo bicyclist with her SUV, pushing him into the path of an oncoming Frontrunner train, was in court Thursday to face charges, including negligent homicide. Police now say the woman is also an illegal immigrant.
Formal charges issued against driver
Maria Fregoso-Avina, 49, was charged with negligent homicide, a class A misdemeanor, and other charges in the Feb. 15 incident that led to the death of Douglas Crow, 69.
Investigators said the woman's windshield was covered with frost, except for a small circle in front of the driver's seat, when her SUV struck Crow, pushing him onto the train tracks near 700 West and 600 South in Provo.
Fregoso-Avina was making a left turn when the railroad crossing arms went down behind her vehicle, according to a police affidavit filed in 4th District Court. She told police she saw the Frontrunner train approaching and accelerated to get over the tracks.
"Maria felt that she had struck something but did not know what because she never saw anything."
"Maria felt that she had struck something but did not know what because she never saw anything," the affidavit states. "Maria had struck a bicyclist pulling a bike trailer, and the bicyclist was (dragged) onto the train tracks."
The conductor of the FrontRunner train saw "debris" on the tracks and initiated his emergency brakes but was unable to stop before striking the man. Fregoso-Avina remained at the scene, according to the affidavit.
Crow, an avid cyclist, had been stopped on his bicycle when he was hit. He died at the scene.
Police discover driver's illegal status
"Based upon our interviews and discussions with (Fregoso-Avina), and the suspicions we had, we wanted to confirm (she was) who she said she was," Provo Police Lt. Mathew Siufanua said Thursday.
Siufanua said there were questions from the start about Fregoso-Avina's identity, and they soon learned the name on her license was an alias.
"She actually had a driver's license that was valid on the system. But again, as we made the checks with ICE and other information and their databases, none of it could be confirmed."
"She actually had a driver's license that was valid on the system. But again, as we made the checks with ICE and other information and their databases, none of it could be confirmed. So, while it did show valid, it wasn't," Siufanua said.
Fregoso-Avina was turned over to the federal Immigration and Custom Enforcement agency on the afternoon of the accident and booked into jail on an immigration hold until, Siufanua said.
"The federal judge released her, which is common in cases like this, and as she was being dropped off and released, that is when we picked her up and booked her on our charges," Siufanua said.
Family members celebrate Crow's life
Meanwhile, as Crow's family attended his funeral Thursday, they tried to focus on his life, not on the circumstances of his untimely death.
"That's a traumatic experience for everyone involved — the witnesses, the people driving that car — and I just feel bad that that's something that they can't erase. That's something that they have to live with for the rest of their life," said Allen Crow, Douglas Crow's son. "My heart goes out to them, as well as nobody who had to witness it."
A special ride of silence in Douglas Crow's honor is planned for Monday, Feb. 25, at 6:30 p.m. It will begin in front of the historic Utah County Courthouse on University Avenue and end at the location where Crow died.