This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
As the family of Brynn Barton hung ornaments and decorated a Christmas tree this season, they did so with sadness rather than the usual joy.
They were creating an entry for the Festival of Trees in honor of Barton, 24, who was struck and killed in June while riding her bicycle in Salt Lake City.
Her family members have dedicated themselves to keeping Barton's legacy alive by giving service. Barton, who was a registered nurse at the University of Utah, had traveled the world on humanitarian aid missions.
This is their first Christmas without her.
Barton's mother, Debbie, is "an amazing Christmas person" said her son-in-law David Gatti. They decorate gingerbread houses and engage in dozens of other holiday activities. This year, they've added the Festival of Trees and a Sub for Santa collection for a family who lost a child this year.
"We're doing a ton of fun things, but that part of it just feels different," Gatti said. "I was talking with my in-laws and saying that it will take some getting used to, which will be a sad thing to get used to."
Barton was riding with friends near 700 East and 756 South on June 7 when a vehicle struck and killed her, then sped from the scene.
She is one of five bicyclists and 28 pedestrians hit and killed this year on Utah's roadways. Barton's is one of the few cases that have not been solved.
Also unsolved is the death of pedestrian Elvia Lopez, who was hit and killed on June 22 while crossing 900 South and West Temple against the light. Her two daughters, 10-year-old Lynda Flor Urcino Lopez and 8-year-old Alejandra Lopez, will be celebrating their first Christmas without their mother.
As Lopez, 26, lay dying in the hospital this summer, her mother, Carol Urcino, recalled her as a happy, loud, funny woman who "loved music and loved to dance."
"I don't hate the person" responsible for the collision, Urcino said at the time, "but I feel anger," adding that she would like to see that person turn himself in.
Gatti said the only thing that has made his family's loss bearable is their deep LDS faith. He said he wonders how the person who hit and killed Barton is feeling this holiday season.
"Christmas has to be super sad for this person that has had a part in a lost life," Gatti said. "And hiding and carrying around that burden has to be eating someone up."
He said his family has tried to wrap their minds around someone just speeding off after hitting a bicyclist. They say they can understand the initial panic and someone fleeing, but they can't imagine living with such guilt. Gatti said his family isn't looking to punish someone with a lengthy prison sentence, but they would like the closure of knowing what happened in those final minutes of their loved one's life.
"We understand that they're afraid and why they've stayed away, but at the same time, it will help us have final closure, and it definitely would help their healing," Gatti said.
While fatal accidents have held steady over the past two years, the number of non-fatal auto-pedestrian accidents in unincorporated Salt Lake County has increased, according to Lt. Justin Hoyal of the Unified Police Department.
They have seen 25 more such accidents this year than the 62 that occurred in 2009, and it's a trend Hoyal finds disturbing.
He cautions drivers to be on the lookout for pedestrians, and for pedestrians to make themselves visible, to use designated crosswalks and to realize that drivers may not see them.
And, if the worst occurs, he warns drivers not to leave the scene of an accident.
"If you do run, you'll face additional charges, [assuming] you would have been charged in the first place," he said. "But you're always going to face much more serious charges if you flee from an accident."
People also need to be careful around trains, buses and light rail, as the number of deaths caused by vehicles operated by the Utah Transit Authority has increased this year. UTA has been running a public-awareness campaign to remind people to be aware of trains and heed crossing arms.
Police officers also are encouraging people to be patient, wait for traffic lights and be aware of their surroundings.
"I want to encourage people to be much more attentive," said West Valley City Police Sgt. Mike Powell. "I've seen far too many auto-pedestrian accidents throughout the valley, and we need them to get rid of distractions and be more attentive."
Detectives investigating the two unsolved deaths from this year are encouraging anyone with information to come forward. The Salt Lake City Police Department can be contacted anonymously by texting TIPSLCPD to CRIMES (274637).
"There's at least the driver that knows what happens, but there may also be others who know, too, and we encourage them to use the different avenues we have available to give us that information," said Detective Cary Wichmann of the Salt Lake City Police Department. "Our detectives also take the family into consideration, and they have the desire to be able to give them that closure that they deserve."