Max Richards was walking his Labrador Retriever Wednesday morning just blocks from his Capitol Hill apartment when the unthinkable happened.
As the 79-year-old and his dog walked across Belmont Ave E near Bellevue Place E, a vehicle struck Richards. He died later that evening from head injuries sustained in the collision. Pink, the dog, was unharmed. An officer who responded to the scene later told Richards’ wife Pink refused to leave the man’s side until he was taken to the hospital.
According to Seattle Police, the driver, a woman in her 40s, showed no signs of impairment. She was interviewed and released pending further investigation. A SPD spokesperson told CHS further details on the incident are not yet publicly available as the investigation in ongoing.
Marilyn Black, Richards’ wife of 20 years, told CHS her husband loved to walk around the neighborhood and make his daily stop inside nearby Barjot for a croissant. “It was a beautiful fall morning, I bet he just felt on top of the world,” Black said.
The area around Belmont and Bellevue — distinguished by the large heritage tree on a small patch of grass — is a steep, tightly packed stretch of road where neighbors have posted signs reminding motorists to slow down. There is no marked crosswalk at the intersection but, of course, it’s legal and expected for the hundreds of pedestrians who pass through this area every day to cross there.
Richards spent most of his career as a professor of English literature at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. Two years ago this month, Richards and Black moved from Melbourne to Seattle so Black could attend a masters program at Seattle University. “He threw himself into exploring Seattle,” she said.
The couple had just recently signed a lease for a brand new condo in Melbourne overlooking the water, where they had planned to return to in 2018.
On Friday, Black wrote about the “unthinkable” tragedy in a message to friends. “In the space of a second, I lost my whole world. And the world lost a special human being,” she said, adding that she took comfort in knowing Pink and a circle of medics surrounded her husband.
I am sure that the serenity of his face as he passed was linked to these final vital experiences: a stunning Fall morning; a devoted family Labrador sharing fully in all his pleasures, and pains; and a circle of communion, holding his hand throughout the ordeal.
But how is it that he’s not lying beside me on our bed tonight? The dogs and I can’t fathom it.
UPDATE 9/26/2016: A city traffic engineer says the Seattle Department of Transportation will be conducting traffic counts at the intersection to determine need for a marked crosswalk:
— Dongho Chang (@dongho_chang) September 24, 2016
UPDATE 9/29/2016: A memorial walk for Richards will take place Sunday, October 2nd:
Memorial Walk for Max Richards
Sunday, 10/2/2016 from 1 to 3 PM
Bellevue Pl E and Belmont Ave E
Max Richards was killed crossing at Bellevue and Belmont on Wednesday morning, September 21. Max was walking his dog in a legal crossing. We want to make sure this crossing and every crossing in Capitol Hill is safe for people who walk.
We will gather at the place where Max was killed. We’ll stop and remember Max, then walk to Cal Anderson Park to discuss ideas for how we can make streets better for walking on Capitol Hill. Along the way you can get to know your neighbors and hear about their stories about the difficulty of walking around Capitol Hill.