The Woodward News

February 4, 2013

Wreck victim identified

Rowynn Ricks
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — The woman killed after her bicycle was hit by a pickup along Hanks Trail on Friday night has been identified as a Mormon missionary.

Alesa Smith, 22, of Benton, Ark., was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident, officials said.

Woodward Police Department conducted an investigation into the fatality collision and determined that "it was just a very unfortunate, bad accident," according to WPD Det. Lt. Chuck Wheeler.

Wheeler said Smith and a companion were riding bicycles eastbound along Hanks Trail around 8 p.m. Friday night.

A 2010 Dodge pickup driven by Daxton Grunewald, 18, of Woodward, was also traveling eastbound on Hanks Trail, he said.

"I think at that time there was another vehicle going westbound.  I understand the headlights from the oncoming traffic may have blinded Grunewald and he did not see the bicyclist and struck her from behind," Wheeler said.

The detective said Smith was then thrown from her bicycle and landed on the shoulder of the road.

"It appears she died from a broken neck," Wheeler said.  "I don't know if she sustained any other injuries."

Her companion, who was riding in front of Smith, was not injured, he said.  The driver of the pickup was also not injured, he said.

Wheeler said the accident investigation report shows that Smith had been wearing a helmet and that there were lights on her bicycle, including a red light on the rear of the bicycle and a small headlight on the front.

The accident occurred around the 2900 block of Hanks Trail, which Wheeler described as "being very dark in that area."

In addition, the detective said there was "nothing from our investigation to indicate that there was any type of wrongdoing on the part of the pickup driver or any illegal substances or anything in his system."

He said there was also "no indications of speeding," although he didn't have information about the exact speed of the pickup at the time of the accident.  The posted speed limit in that area is 40 mph.

A medical examiner was called out to help investigate the accident, Wheeler said.

Also assisting at the scene were the Woodward Fire Department, EMS and Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

In a statement released Sunday evening, the Jesus Christ Church of Latter Day Saints expressed grief over Smith's death.

"The entire church grieves at her passing and we pray for her family and friends at this time," the statement reads.

A church official said Smith had been working in Oklahoma on a Mormon mission for the past 10 months.