Felony manslaughter charges have been filed in connection with the death of a well-known Wever couple killed last March when they were struck by an SUV that jumped a curb and hit a group of people as they walked along a sidewalk in a small city north of Phoenix.
A Canadian couple also were killed in the accident when they were struck by the same SUV driven by Alex Bashaw, 27.
In a four count indictment recently handed down by a Maricopa County grand jury, Bashaw is charged with killing Bob and Karen Bonta of Wever and Ronald and Patti Lou Doornbos of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The couples were not together, but were walking near each other when Bashaw's vehicle plowed into them.
A report from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office released this week indicates Bashaw may have been speeding and talking on his cellphone when the accident occurred about 9 a.m. March 13 in Fountain Hills, Arizona.
According to a statement from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, Bashaw, who moved to Ohio following the accident, was arrested there Monday on the felony warrants. Unless he voluntarily returns to Arizona to face the charges, he will likely be extradited within the next few weeks.
His bond was set at $750,000.
Bashaw was charged following a lengthy investigation by state and local investigators that included an accident reconstruction team and the use of search warrants.
"A search warrant was served to obtain data from Alex Bashaw’s cellphone," according to Sgt. Bryant Vanegas, a sheriff's department spokesman. "The data showed that Alex received a call at 9:11 a.m., which lasted 55 seconds ... The data shows that Alex was involved with his cellphone within seconds of the first pedestrian collision.
"It is the belief of the investigators that Alex Bashaw’s driving behavior was reckless."
Vanegas also said it appeared Bashaw was speeding.
"Alex was traveling at a minimum speed of 53 mph, where the posted speed limit is 35 mph," Vanegas said. "Alex failed to negotiate the roadway’s slight curve and continued in a northeasterly direction across the northbound six-foot wide bicycle lane."
Vanegas said Bashaw struck the raised cement curb, making his way onto the east sidewalk and struck Patti and Ronald Doornbos. Patti and Ronald were walking northbound on the sidewalk and they were approximately 40 feet south of the intersection when struck. Bashaw was traveling a minimum speed range of 40 to 43 mph when he struck the couple, Vanegas said.
Bashaw continued in a counterclockwise rotation returning to the roadway a few feet south of the intersection’s stop bar and entered the intersection against a red light, striking Karen and Bob Bonta, Vanegas said.
The Bontas were legally walking westbound in the intersection’s south crosswalk when they were struck by Bashaw. Bashaw’s vehicle came to rest approximately 23 feet northwest of where it struck the Bontas.
According to Vanegas, Bashaw was "found to have a history of drug use. He was examined at the scene by a drug recognition expert ... who determined that Alex was not impaired" at the time of the accident.
Bashaw told investigators he looked down while driving and did not know why he drove off the road, Vanegas said. He denied using his cellphone at the time of the collision and told investigators he was going 33 to 35 mph at the time of the accident, according to the sheriff's department statement.
He also told investigators his cellphone was in a cradle and he could use the phone in a hands free mode, according to the report.
"After his vehicle had hit the curb, he stated he saw the people on the sidewalk and he steered to the left to avoid them," Vanegas stated "Alex said he saw them hit the right front corner of his vehicle and he saw the right front corner of his vehicle also hit the other two in the crosswalk.
"Alex said once his vehicle came to rest he jumped out and ran over to the older lady and began CPR. He said fire personnel came on scene and they directed him to do CPR on the male and he did until he was asked to stop."
The Bontas, retired southeast Iowa educators, were walking on the sidewalk of Saguaro Boulevard at Palisades Boulevard when they stopped to cross the street and were hit by Bashaw’s vehicle. The Doornbos were walking on the east sidewalk of Saguaro Boulevard, approaching Palisades Boulevard, when they were hit.
Three of the pedestrians died the day of the accident, including the Bontas and Patti Doornbos. Ronald Doornbos recently died from his injuries at a hospital in Canada, where he had undergone numerous surgeries related to his injuries.
Bashaw, who was not seriously injured in the accident, remained on scene after the crash and talked with law enforcement officers, authorities said.
Additional details are expected to be released as the case moves through the Arizona court system.