Justin and Amber Ford needed a break. The Alabama couple’s life revolved around their young children — a 2-year-old girl and a 9-month-old boy — and they wanted a romantic getaway.
“Our relationship’s been tough, and we decided to leave the babies with someone and go out,” Justin Ford said. “We chose Atlanta because it was close.”
After an evening of comedy at The Laughing Skull Lounge, the Fords debated how to return to their hotel: in an Uber or riding atop e-scooters.
They chose the scooters, and a night of laughs and romance turned tragic when Amber’s scooter was struck by a car as she rode on 14th Street, about 50 feet behind her husband.
Justin Ford said he didn’t see the crash and only learned that his wife of five years had been hit by a car when witnesses described the accident to 911 operators.
Justin told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he heard his wife scream, and initially thought she had fallen off the scooter. He said Amber Ford had not consumed any alcohol that night.
“I saw her rolling in the street,” he said. “She was knocked out, her head was bleeding and she was making a gargling sound.”
Amber Ford, 34, died late Friday night. She had been on life support at Grady Memorial Hospital, where she has been in the days since the July 27 crash. Justin Ford said she was in a vegetative state so that doctors could find recipients for her organs.
A GoFundMe account had been created to help with the family’s food, hotel and travel expenses while in Atlanta. It has raised more than $9,000.
Atlanta police are investigating the fatal hit-and-run.
Amber’s death is the third e-scooter fatality this year in Atlanta.
The first occurred in May, when a 20-year-old man was struck by a Cadillac SUV as he left a MARTA station. The driver of the vehicle, 36-year-old Narcory Wright, was later arrested on misdemeanor charges of second-degree homicide by vehicle and speeding.
Another e-scooter rider was killed July 17, when the 37-year-old Atlanta man was run over by a CobbLinc bus, police said. The man died as firefighters tried to extract him. No charges were filed against the bus driver.
The scooters have been in Atlanta since June 2018 and opinions about them vary — from nuisances for many pedestrians on sidewalks to convenient ways to zip around traffic jams for regular users.
Justin Ford said the couple were shooed off the sidewalk by pedestrians during their ride earlier in the day. It was their first time on scooters.
“We were getting fussed at for being on the sidewalk so we moved to the street,” Ford said.
A `growing issue of public safety’
The latest crash comes a week after Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms signed an executive order prohibiting the issuance of additional e-scooter permits.
Bottoms said last week that the moratorium on new permits was necessary because of safety concerns and the vast number of scooters in the city.
On Friday, Bottoms called the latest accident “heartbreaking,” and said it “only reinforces the need for a closer look at the use and regulation of the devices. This administration will take the necessary action to ensure the safety of our residents.”
Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore called scooters a “growing issue of public safety.”
“Please consider limiting your use of e-scooters at night, and if possible, consider limiting their use entirely as we work through the city’s infrastructure challenges,” Moore said in a statement.
Councilman Amir Farokhi renewed his call for safer streets.
“If we want these type of tragic incidents to become less common or go away altogether, we have to change the design of our streets to slow speeds and to allow for multiple modes of mobility,” he said.
Farokhi suggested there be dedicated bike and scooter lanes on broad one-way streets. He’s also said it may be necessary to require better lighting on scooters, similar to how bikes have red flashing lights.
“It doesn’t matter if they’re on a scooter, bike or walking. The burden is on the city to improve the safety of its roads and visibility for everyone,” Farokhi said.
Police do not have a description of the car that hit Amber’s scooter, and are not yet releasing images or video of the crash. Anyone with information is urged to contact 404-765-2808.
— Reporter Shaddi Abusaid contributed to this report.
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