Published Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2010 | 3:30 p.m.
Updated Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2010 | 7:26 p.m.
Metro Police are investigating the death of a 79-year-old Las Vegas woman this afternoon whose vehicle crashed into an area behind a performance stage at the Fremont Street Experience.
Police identified the woman Tuesday evening as Sara Dominguez.
Sgt. Oscar Chavez said officers responded at 2:23 p.m. to the crash north of Third Street and Carson Avenue, just to the south of Fremont Street. Authorities said a 1996 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup truck was northbound on Third Street when the vehicle left the roadway and collided with a structure that houses the sound system for the stage.
Investigators aren't sure what caused Dominguez to crash into the structure, but Chavez said the vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed.
"The impact was pretty severe," he said.
He said police were continuing to investigate the crash and whether the woman might have suffered a medical episode or whether the crash could have been intentional. He said her age was a factor in their investigation.
“We’re still in the preliminary stages of the investigation,” he said. “We’re treating this as a vehicle collision involving a fatality.”
Witnesses told police the vehicle had run several red lights, which Chavez said investigators were still working to confirm.
He said the woman had dropped off her adult grandson in the area of Clark Avenue and Third Street just before the crash. Dominguez was the only person in the vehicle at the time of the crash, he said.
Chavez said investigators believed the stage structure was empty at the time of the crash and no pedestrian injuries were reported.
“We’re very fortunate that there were no other people. It’s a good thing there wasn’t a concert going on right now,” he said.
The walls of the cement structure caved from the impact and landed on the vehicle. A small metal gate that blocked the sidewalk from vehicle traffic had been carried inside the structure, apparently on the front of the vehicle. The interior of the structure appeared to be destroyed.
Jeremy Wulf, who was visiting Las Vegas from Iowa with his fiancee, Megan Plehall, said the two were walking near Third and Carson when they heard an engine rev.
They turned and saw the truck traveling at a high rate of speed, then it hit the structure.
"It flew right down the street. No brake lights. (She) had it to the floor, that's for sure," Wulf said.
Terry Hibbard, 42, of Lake Arrowhead, Calif., said he was in Las Vegas to celebrate his birthday with friends. He was on a balcony at Fitzgerald's when he heard the truck crash into the stage area.
“We saw everybody turn their heads and start running this way,” he said, gesturing at the crumpled cement wall. “When we got down here, there was only one unit. The cops weren’t here yet.”
When police arrived, officers drew their weapons and surrounded the vehicle, he said. A man ran to the scene and said it was his grandmother in the truck, Hibbard said. The man and a woman with an infant were seen consoling each other after the accident before being escorted from the scene by Four Queens security officers.
Wally and Kathy Obermann, of Minocqua, Wis., had just pulled their car into the garage at Fitzgerald’s after spending a day at M Resort and Green Valley Ranch in Henderson.
“I think everybody was in shock, you know, it was unbelievable,” Wally Obermann said. “I bet you we missed it by 30 seconds.”
He said the casino valets were the first to run to the scene, which was in an area of the Fremont Street Experience between the parking areas of Fitzgerald’s and the Four Queens.
“I saw the paramedics come with the Jaws of Life,” he said. “Then I saw them take the gurney away and thought, 'uh oh, someone’s dead here because they took it away empty.'”
The crash is the seventh fatal collision in Metro’s jurisdiction this year.