Businessman praises community response to crash

Robert Smith
Crash? What crash? The local community in Pawhuska quickly tidied things up following a Feb. 14 traffic incident on Kihekah Avenue that damaged historic commercial property. Robert Smith/Journal-Capital

What a Valentine’s Day afternoon. Cidney Wolfvoice was at her desk in the first-floor office of the historic Whiting Building on Kihekah Avenue in downtown Pawhuska a little after 1 p.m. on Feb. 14, when she looked out and saw a Dodge Ram pickup coming straight at her.

“It was aiming toward me,” she said, recalling that she grabbed her dog, which was behind the desk next to her, and ran.

“Her car was the only thing that kept it from coming into this window,” added Scott Trotter, owner of the Whiting property. Pawhuska police noted in an incident narrative that a Shidler man was driving the Ram pickup, which reportedly struck more than one vehicle before hitting the Whiting Building. The police narrative added that the Ram pickup caused damage to more than $6,000 of merchandise at the Pawhuska Marketplace and “significant damage to one of Pawhuska’s greatest historical places.”

In the midst of the chaos and shock that followed, what Trotter noticed, and what has stayed with him in the following weeks, was how quickly both first responders and other local property owners came together to offer assistance.

“I saw a community come together,” Trotter said. “It was a horrible thing, but I felt that something really did come out of it.”

Even before an ambulance crew arrived, Ms. Wolfvoice had checked on the well-being of the driver of the pickup, and as Trotter was wondering in shock how he was going to deal with the damage to his building, property developer Eric Gomez came to his aid. Trotter recalls that Gomez immediately called on some people to come and help, and within a matter of hours things were tidied up the best that they could be for the time being.

Gomez recalled that his reaction Valentine’s Day afternoon was sparked by hearing multiple emergency sirens and finding that highly unusual in Pawhuska.

“OK, this must be a record,” he recalled reacting after the third siren.

He realized that Trotter could use some assistance and pulled together some lumber and tools. Gomez also recalled that people willing to help “just kind of materialized.”

He was grateful that no pedestrians were hurt in the traffic incident.

“It’s just kind of a miracle that nobody was hurt,” Gomez said.

Trotter had high praise for city employees — ranging from police officers to firefighters to medics to City Manager Dave Neely and Steve Hughes, the code enforcement officer, who provided assistance.

Trotter said he has an expensive and important ongoing job to restore the damaged building, but he doesn’t want damage and disappointment to become the dominant narratives emerging from the Feb. 14 crash.

“I’d kind of like to see us have some positive stories come out,” he said, choosing to dwell on the helpful spirit he witnessed in downtown Pawhuska in the immediate aftermath of the crash.