The matter appeared troubling for its unforeseeable nature alone.
Pedestrian safety has been a concern in Montgomery County for some time. Just between Dec. 6 and Dec. 9, police said, 12 pedestrians were struck in the county. Two were killed.
The police issued safety guidelines Dec. 12, but they appeared to focus on streets and roads as the danger zones. Being struck on a sidewalk is something few people contemplate, and it was not clear what precautions could be taken.
Posts on a local television station’s Facebook page indicated a sad recognition of the unpredictability of the New Year’s morning incident.
“They were walking on the sidewalk. The car drove up on the sidewalk,” read one posting on the WJLA (Channel 7) page. “Any person could of been these victims.”
Another post said, “They shouldn’t have to worry about being hit by a car on the sidewalk.”
Still another read: “Nowhere is safe.”
In endangering people who were not in the roadway, the incident bore similarities to one Dec. 17 on Veirs Mill Road. Rolando Grande Martinez, 59, of Silver Spring was waiting at a bus stop when a car left the road and fatally injured him, police said.
Another pedestrian was killed late that night on Veirs Mill.
In the New Year’s Day incident, police said a car was headed north on Summit when it left the right side of the road below Prospect Street.
Police said Sunday that the reason the car left the road was “still under investigation.” No new information was available Monday.
At the point where the incident occurred, a few hundred yards west of Connecticut Avenue, Summit runs through a tree-lined residential neighborhood. Sidewalks are narrow, with scarcely enough room for two people to walk abreast.
Both Whalens were described as physically fit and longtime residents of their community.
It was not clear Monday night where they were bound or in which direction they were walking when they were struck.
Neighbors offered glowing descriptions of both.
“Really fine people,” said one neighbor. A “lovely, lovely couple,” another said.
In the initial statement about the incident, police described the couple’s injuries as life-threatening. Updated information about their conditions could not be obtained Monday night.