By John Ruch
The manager of a City of Atlanta program aimed at eliminating serious and fatal traffic injuries was badly injured Oct. 7 when she and others were run down by a vehicle on a Tennessee street.
Kemberli Sargent, manager of the “Vision Zero” program, and her husband Paul Leonhardt, a City of Dunwoody planner, remain hospitalized following the incident in Chattanooga, where they were attending a joint conference of the Georgia Planning Association and the Tennessee Planning Association. Local media reports and two of the injured say that five people were struck while in a crosswalk by driver who is now accused of DUI and several other charges, including vehicular assault and aggravated assault. Other motorists were injured as well.
Another victim of the collision was Atlanta Regional Commission planning staffer Elizabeth “Lizzy” Sandlin. According to an online fundraiser, she also was seriously injured and is now in an in-patient rehabilitation center in Atlanta for recovery.
The other pedestrian struck in the crosswalk were Ashley Finch, a rail and transit planner with the Georgia Department of Transportation, and her partner Sarah Lashinsky. According to Finch, Lashinsky “suffered a major laceration on her leg that required immediate surgery at the hospital as well as significant bruising. She is recovering back at home in Atlanta and is undergoing physical therapy for her injuries. My injuries included my feet being run over and soft tissue damage resulting from that impact. I am healing back at home in Atlanta.”
“Everyone (except Sarah) were planners who have dedicated our professional lives to focusing on increasing mobility options in the metro area and improving safety and reducing traffic injuries and fatalities,” said Finch.
The Atlanta Department of Transportation said Sargent’s family has requested privacy and that the department’s “sincere thoughts and prayers” are with them.
“Kemberli is a passionate advocate for safer streets on both a personal and professional level,” said ATLDOT Commissioner Josh Rowan in a written statement. “As Vision Zero manager, she works every day to implement programming designed to eliminate traffic fatalities and crashes in the City of Atlanta. Unfortunately, this tragedy illustrates the importance of the Vision Zero program and the work of the ATLDOT strategy and planning team. We call on all Atlanta citizens to join us in our efforts to eliminate traffic deaths and injuries in our city.”
Vision Zero is a program that aims to make streets free of such injuries and fatalities with design, speed management and other strategies.
Leonhardt is Dunwoody’s planning and zoning manager and deputy director of community development. “Paul Leonhardt is a valued member of our community development team and beloved by his co-workers,” said City spokesperson Jennifer Boettcher. “We wish him strength for a full and speedy recovery.”
The online fundraiser for Sargent and Leonhardt and their family is available here.
The fundraiser for Sandlin is available here.
Correction: An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect surname for Leonhardt. This story has been updated with information about other victims of the collision.