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Donahou's death prompts safety study
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The Hughson accident which took the life of Sheriff's Department crime scene technician Mary Donahou on Dec. 30, 2011 will likely change the clothing style and improve safety procedures for those who investigate crimes and crashes.

A report released this week concluded that while Donahou was ultimately responsible for failing to see vehicles coming while standing in Santa Fe Avenue to investigate a prior crime, the Sheriff's Department needs to offer better safety training to civilian employees as well as provide reflective striped clothing. Donahou, who was wearing all black, was struck in the pre-dawn darkness as she was taking or preparing to take photos of shell casings from a drive-by shooting at a Santa Fe Avenue home just south of Whitmore Avenue.

Another suggestion contained in the report calls for someone to spot a civilian employee who may be in harm's way.

Donahou, 46, of Ceres, a nine-year employee of the department, died a short time after sustaining injuries at 6:40 a.m. as she was struck by two vehicles - not one as previously was reported.

Donahou had parked her Sheriff's Department vehicle on the west shoulder of southbound Santa Fe Avenue and was standing in or crossing the road when she was struck by a southbound 2000 Suzuki Grand Vitara driven by Elizabeth Quiroga, 38, of Hughson, who was on her way to her job as a Turlock Police Department dispatcher. The report indicates that the impact knocked Donahou into a northbound 2000 Chevrolet pickup and fell underneath it.

Sheriff Adam Christianson commissioned a report on the circumstances surrounding the death, which was completed by Los Angeles Police Capt. Rich Wemmer and retired Huntington Beach Police Lt. Ed Deuel.

Quiroga told CHP investigators she didn't see Donahou in the road until it was too late. The report suggested that Donahou was not visible because of the dark colors she was wearing and because the drivers were staring at headlights coming at them from opposing cars.

No skid marks were present at the scene, indicating that neither driver saw Donahou.

The driver's side headlight was broken and front quarter panel dented, indicating that Donahou was somewhere the center of the Santa Fe Avenue at the time of impact.

Donahou ended up showing up for work earlier than her typical 7 a.m. shift start because a deputy had a need for a camera since his was malfunctioning.

Donahou left behind a son, Jake, who was 12 at the time, her parents and sister, all whom live in the Modesto-Ceres area.