Milton-Freewater jogger hit by car, dies

Officials say Maria Lissette Meza was unaware of traffic approaching when she crossed in front of a car.

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MILTON-FREEWATER — The dark of an early fall morning and a personal music device were significant contributors in the death of a young woman in Milton-Freewater on Wednesday morning, officials said.

Maria Lissette Meza, 19, was struck by a car and killed as she was jogging on Winesap Road on the outskirts of town at 7:05 a.m., according to the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office.

Driving the 1990 Acura was Hector Manuel Garcia Ibarra, 22, of 141 Campo Loop Road in Walla Walla County.

Meza was distantly related to the Efrain and Mari Meza family, which lost its Milton-Freewater home and child to fire in October. Meza had a Wallula address listed on her drivers license, but was reportedly living in the area near where she was hit, said Sheriff John Trumbo.

The woman was wearing headphones or earbuds and listening to a personal music device when she crossed the road in front of Ibarra, Trumbo said. The driver attempted to avoid her, but clipped Meza with the front corner of the vehicle.
Ibarra immediately stopped and attempted to assist Meza, officials said this morning. He was "very, very helpful and was compliant with whatever was asked of him," noted Sgt. John Shafer, public information officer.

Drugs, alcohol and excessive speed were not contributing factors, Trumbo said. "The speed limit there is 40 mph and that’s what he was going. We’ve written tickets out there for 60 or 70 (mph)."

Meza was taken to Providence St. Mary Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.
Trumbo expects the investigation will ultimately show Meza was unaware of her surroundings prior to crossing the road, he said. "Two things people must be aware of when they jog this time of year. We recommend wearing bright clothing or, preferably, use reflective striping. And if you are going to listen to music, keep one ear unplugged."

Those using roads and streets for exercise should always run on the side and toward traffic, he added. "So you can see who is coming."

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322. Check out her blog at blogs.ublabs.org/fromthestorageroom.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322. Check out her blog at blogs.ublabs.org/fromthestorageroom.

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