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August 1, 2014

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After agonizing wait at bus stop crash site, daughter learns of mom’s death

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Steve Marcus

Metro Police investigate after a car crashed into a bus stop on Spring Mountain Road east of Decatur Boulevard, killing four people, on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012.

Updated Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012 | 10:10 p.m.

Bus Stop Crash Memorial

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Fatal Bus Stop Accident

Metro Police investigate after a car crashed into a bus stop on Spring Mountain Road east of Decatur Boulevard, killing four people, on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012. Launch slideshow »

The day was normal until suddenly it was not.

Johnni Garner, 49, woke up and left for work. She walked a block south to a bus stop on Spring Mountain Road near Decatur Boulevard.

Then she waited, just like any other Thursday, for the public bus to shuttle her to Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, where she worked as a certified nursing assistant.

“She works Monday through Thursday,” her daughter, 23-year-old Nichelle Garner, said. “Today was her last day (of the week).”

But under the emerging blue sky, a black Chevrolet Monte Carlo was on a path that would forever change and end lives. Metro Police say a suspected drunken driver lost control while heading east on Spring Mountain and plowed into the bus stop.

That was at 6:25 a.m., one minute before the scheduled arrival of Bus 203.

First-responders arrived to a sea of carnage. The news spread: Fatal accident at Spring Mountain and Decatur. Four dead, eight injured.

And, for some families, that’s when the panic set in.

“I checked her phone (GPS), and it says her phone is at the bus stop,” Nichelle Garner said Thursday afternoon.

Her mother never showed up for work. She never called her family, and she wasn’t answering her cellphone. Her loved ones sprang to action.

Nichelle Garner and two friends, Chris Lozano and Sarah Leal, called University Medical Center and Sunrise Hospital for victim information. No word. They called again later. Still no word.

By 11 a.m., the trio gathered outside a Terrible Herbst a few hundred feet west of the accident site, where bright white sheets covered the four victims’ bodies.

Minutes passed, then hours.

Soon 3 p.m. arrived, and they sat inside Terrible Herbst fidgeting their legs, anxiously checking their phones and wiping away tears.

They’re the often-unnamed tragedy victims, the loved ones of a person feared dead in an accident who wince when the phone rings: Will it be good news or bad?

A phone rang at 3:15 p.m. It was a Metro detective.

“Is there any information you can give me about the victims?” Lozano asked. Nichelle Garner and Leal sat in silence, exchanging nervous glances.

Lozano paced, uttering “OK” or “uh-huh” before thanking the detective and hanging up.

“He said as soon as they know, we’ll know,” he told Nichelle Garner and Leal.

Fifteen minutes came and went. More loved ones entered Terrible Herbst. A son and two of his mother’s co-workers were there to see if she was among the dead.

Like Johnni Garner, the woman never showed up for her housekeeping job at Treasure Island.

“The not knowing is the worst,” said Belinda Hall, who did not want to identify her co-worker at Treasure Island. “When you know, the healing can begin.”

More than nine hours after the crash, the equally anticipated and dreaded moment arrived. Clark County’s assistant coroner, John Fudenberg, entered Terrible Herbst and gently asked Nichelle Garner and her friends to follow him.

He led them toward a Carl’s Jr. next to the demolished bus stop.

And that’s where authorities confirmed the worst-case scenario that had tied loved ones’ stomachs in knots and reduced them to tears all day.

“(Johnni) was one of the four at the scene,” said Leal, who choked back tears when reached by phone later. “She was a sweet person — always doing everything for others.”

As of 10 p.m. Thursday, authorities had identified the three pedestrians, all Las Vegans, who were injured in the accident, but are withholding the names of those who died until their families have been notified.

Zakiya Corner, 29, was taken to Sunrise Hospital in critical condition, while Zexiang Wang was taken to University Medical Center in critical condition. Billy Joel Ramirez-Fuentes, 31, is in Sunrise with minor injuries.

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  1. This is a tragedy. Working people waiting for the bus. My sincerest condolences to the families of the deceased and best wishes for the injured. I'm so sorry this happened to all of you.

  2. No words can express the sorrow the community feels for the victims and their families and friends.

  3. Echoing The_Next_Opinion. My condolences to the family and friends of the deceased and injured in this tragedy.

  4. My heart goes out to the all the victims and their families. One minute before the bus was scheduled to arrive....one minute that changed so many lives forever. So sad. God bless them all.

  5. WHY WHY does the driver reponsible for these horrific accidents always live??? I know it is not up to us to decide that person's fate, but they always live to see another day, while others mourn those that this driver murdered. Yes, murdered. A car is just as lethal a weapon as a gun; if this a-shole took a gun and shot those people, he would be put in jail for the rest of his life.

  6. I don't know any of the victims of this horrific tragedy, but I am in tears reading this. I can't even imagine what these families and friends must be going through. My most heartfelt condolences. I will keep you all in my prayers.

  7. @DetMunch
    It's technology. Air bags, safer cars, crash tested, seat belts, plus they have the steering wheel to brace themselves. The ones in the back seats usually die as they are launched like missiles on impact.

    This murder is so wrong on so many levels. It's bad enough your inebriated in a general sense. Then you decide to get in the car. Then you decided to drive. Then you decide to speed like a demon. There are pedstrians all over that area.

    Are there any legal experts out there that know what the likely penalty is for murdering 4 people in this manner. Anything less than life is too little but I would at least hope this scum is incarcerated for 20 years.