The Eureka Police Department last Wednesday identified Eureka resident Allen Junior Keppner, 68, as the driver in an accident that killed an Arcata teenage boy.
EPD senior traffic officer Gary Whitmer said there are no indications of gross negligence or reports of speeding on the driver’s part.
Jacoby Creek School student David Wilder Pickart-Jain, age 13, was the son of ecologist Andrea Pickart and music teacher Peter Jain. He was struck while crossing J Street, at the Carson Street intersection, on Saturday, March 9. He died the next day.
David Pickart-Jain, known to many as Davey, was set to travel to Stanford in two weeks as the Humboldt County representative for a nationwide middle school mathematics competition.
Coaches, classmates and the parents of his friends have described him as a dedicated student and well-rounded teen who was responsible and appeared poised for a promising future with his easy-going nature and penchant for math.
The death of the teen has left many in a community already concerned about traffic safety issues in Eureka with more questions.
Whitmer said it was not unusual to delay the release of names in sensitive cases, especially when it involves the death of a child.
”Normally, we don’t release a name right off the bat,” Whitmer said. “Maybe there are times that we do, but it really just depends on who puts out the press release and the type of case.”
Arcata resident Anthony Kahn - whose son Ellis Kahn was a close friend of Pickart-Jain - raised questions about the initial reports released by the EPD, which his son disputed.
Ellis Kahn said he was walking with Pickart-Jain and a large group of kids on their way to a park from a birthday party on Saturday. “I looked back and saw David inside the crosswalk,” Ellis Kahn said. “Then I turned around, and that’s when I heard the car hit - it was as I was turning around. I saw him going with the car.”
According to an initial release, witnesses reported seeing the teenager standing stationary in the southbound lane of J Street - at the Carson Street intersection, but outside of the crosswalk - and looking down at his cell phone when he was hit.
Ellis Kahn said while EPD’s initial report did get many of the details correct, he was glad when Whitmer came out and said EPD “is not assigning fault or anything at this point.”
A memorial service was held for David Pickart-Jain at Jacoby Creek School, 1617 Old Arcata Road, Bayside, on Saturday, March 16.
The EPD is asking anyone with information about this case to call traffic officer Greg Hill at 441-4342 or traffic officer Tim Jones at 441-4109.