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City Psychiatrist Struck, Killed by Auto Crossing Marin Avenue

By Judith Scherr
Friday January 04, 2008

Sandra Graber, a psychiatrist with the city of Berkeley, was struck and killed by a car as she was crossing Marin Avenue at Colusa Avenue on Monday at about 9:40 a.m. 

“Sandy had a routine; she used to walk every morning to exercise and center herself,” Council-member Laurie Capitelli, Graber’s neighbor for 30 years, told the Planet. 

Graber, 61, was walking north on Marin in the crosswalk at Colusa Avenue near her home when she was struck by a car driven by a 79-year-old man traveling south on Colusa and turning east onto Marin, according to Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, Berkeley Police Department public information officer.  

“She was a gentle soul,” said Capitelli, adding that she leaves two adult sons and a husband. 

Police have determined that no drugs or alcohol were involved in the collision. Graber was in the crosswalk and the driver is at fault for not yielding to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, according to Kusmiss. The district attorney will determine whether or how to charge the driver. 

This is the second pedestrian fatality on Marin within a year. A previous accident happened June 6 at Marin and Talbot avenues on the Albany section of the avenue. In that accident, police determined that the driver was under the influence of alcohol. He was charged with manslaughter. 

On Dec. 12, another city worker, Erica Madrid, was struck and killed while crossing Solano Ave. at Fresno Ave., just two blocks from the scene of the Monday morning fatality.  

Graber had been walking without identification when she was struck. Berkeley Fire Department paramedics transported her to Highland Hospital, where she later died of her injuries. 

Kusmiss said officers spent a number of hours knocking on doors in the area and attempting to activate the car alarm on the Honda key she carried in order to determine where she lived. It  

wasn’t until that evening that Graber’s husband reported his wife missing and that her identity became known, Kusmiss said. 

Fred Madrano, who heads the city’s Health and Human Services Department, sent an e-mail to his staff Thursday saying: “The more I think of Sandy’s life’s work with Berkeley Mental Health over the past 30 years, the more I am humbled and honored to have served with her.”  

Over the past five years there have been seven collisions, in addition to Monday’s accident, at the intersection of Colusa and Marin. None of the other collisions resulted in fatalities, according to Kusmiss. 

Four of five traffic collisions in Berkeley in 2007 involved pedestrians, according to Kusmiss. On June 25 a pedestrian was struck at Telegraph Ave. and Blake St. and died July 5; it was determined that the driver was under the influence of a prescription medication. On June 3, a pedestrian was killed at Solano Ave. and Fresno Ave., the same intersection at which the Dec. 12 fatal collision occurred. 

Jan. 19, on Eastshore Highway north of Page Street, a driver determined to be under the influence of alcohol struck a parked car and killed the occupant. The driver was charged with manslaughter. 

Three years ago, Marin Ave. was reconfigured, changed from a four-lane street to a two-lane street with a middle left-turn lane. The change caused the removal of raised islands in the middle of the street. 

“Reconfiguration of Marin certainly could constitute a condemning factor in this pedestrian fatality; because previous to the reconfiguration, there were raised islands on the centerline of Marin Ave. at both this pedestrian crossing and the one on the other side of Colusa at this intersection,” said Raymond Chamberlin, a nearby resident who had fought the reconfiguration of the street at the time. 

The reconfiguration was to have slowed traffic, but at the last report, had not done so, according to Councilmember Capitelli, who sent out an e-mail to his constituents calling on them to take personal responsibility when driving.