Friday, September 18, 2009


There have been so many tragic deaths this summer. But this one takes the cake. I can't believe it. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the news online. I can't believe my ears when I hear myself talk about it.

Car claims life of S.F. pedestrian
By: Katie Worth and Tamara Barak Aparton
San Francisco Examiner
September 16, 2009

Gathering evidence: Police are determining whether pedestrian Melissa Hope Dennison, below, or the driver who fatally struck her had the right of way at Fell and Broderick streets. (Cindy Chew/the Examiner)
SAN FRANCISCO — A recent San Francisco State University graduate who friends described as hilarious and quirky was killed after a car hit her on Fell Street early Tuesday morning.

A 19-year-old who lives on the Peninsula but was commuting to work in The City drove his Honda Civic to the right around a car that had stopped in front of him — a legal maneuver — according to police spokeswoman Sgt. Lyn Tomioka.

The Civic then struck Melissa Hope Dennison, 24, of San Francisco and the impact threw her “a significant distance” from the intersection of Fell and Broderick streets, Tomioka said.

The accident was reported at 6:27 a.m., fire dispatchers said.

Dennison died at the scene. The motorist initially left the scene, but drove back and told police he had been unable to find a place to stop his car, Tomioka said.

There are crosswalks and traffic lights at the intersection, but police are still investigating whether Dennison was inside the crosswalk.

“There were quite a few witnesses, or at least people who stopped to help,” Tomioka said.

There’s no evidence excessive speed, alcohol or drugs were factors in the collision, according to police. A complaint against the driver will be forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office, which will decide whether to file charges.

“Inspectors are still determining who had the right of way, but the driver is required to proceed with due caution, so that’s going to be an issue here,” Tomioka said.

Betsy Hansen, a longtime friend of Dennison, described her as “probably the biggest character that any of us ever knew.”

“She always had a hilarious story of something that had happened to her,” Hansen said. “She was the type of person who would strike up a conversation with anybody. She was always meeting the most random people and then would call us and tell us about it. She’d bring a smile to our faces every day.”

Among Dennison’s many quirks was her habit of calling friends with “random factoids” she’d just learned that she was convinced they would find interesting, Hansen said.

She said Dennison grew up in Truckee and was an avid snowboarder and loved music, especially hip-hop. She went to school in Santa Barbara and finished at San Francisco State University — graduating with a degree in political science — and went on a trip to Bali immediately after graduation.

Hansen said Dennison was likely on her way to get a cup of coffee when she was struck.

Dennison’s uncle, Chris Dennison, said the tragedy is not the only one to strike the family recently. Her father is currently in an intensive care unit for medical complications.

Manish Champsee, president of pedestrian-safety organization WalkSF, said pedestrian injuries and deaths are often the result of vehicles swerving around stopped cars.

“One vehicle stops and the other people in their cars think the guy has stopped for no reason and they’re going to swerve,” he said. “If a vehicle is stopped, it’s probably stopped for a good reason.”

State law dictates that an intersection doesn’t need to marked to be considered a crosswalk, Champsee said.

Fell Street flows with swiftly moving traffic, but it’s also lined with residences and shops and has been fairly dangerous for pedestrians, he said, adding that he was pleased charges against the driver are being considered.

“Far too often, crashes occur, someone dies and no one is held to account,” Champsee said.

I met Melissa in AA in SF. She was one of the first people to talk to me and befriend me. She made an effort to hang out with me and get to know me. She confided in me when she was having a hard time staying sober and she didn't feel like she could tell any of her friends. She stopped by my work at D-Structure all the time just to say hi. She came and modeled for my photoshoots at D-Structure on a whim all the time. She was so fun and brought such a good energy. She would talk to random people on the street, didn't have a problem talking to ANYONE. She was really supportive of me and Brad... she thought we were the cutest couple. She was one of the people I missed most leaving SF. We kept in contact since I've been gone. I just talked to her last week about everything going on in our lives. I looked forward to seeing her again in my next visit to SF. I can't believe she's gone. It just feels like way too soon. And it's so bizarre... her mom was killed in a car accident.....her ex boyfriend was just RECENTLY killed in a car accident. Her sisters fiance just RECENTLY drowned in a pool and died. I can't believe it happened to her. She was one of the happiest and spunkiest people I've ever met. It is such a huge loss.

R.I.P Melissa Hope. You are greatly missed.


  1. she was a wonderful person, Uncle Tony

  2. I knew Melissa and Kacie in Reno when we swam together. I can't believe all the tragedy that has happened to their family. Very sad. My heart goes out to Kacie; I hope she has a great group of friends around her.