Words Matter: When Does Someone Die, and When Is Someone Killed?

©. Orson Bean/ Photo Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

It seems that when there is a car involved, it's the former rather than the latter.

Ninety-one-year-old Orson Bean was crossing Venice Boulevard in Los Angeles on his way to see a play. Evidently he was clipped by a Honda Civic and fell down. But then, according to ABC,

Other bystanders tried to warn a second driver, but he also struck the pedestrian. Police say the second collision was fatal. Both drivers stayed at the scene. "The car coming westbound did not see him and clipped him and he went down," said Los Angeles Police Department Capt. Brian Wendling. "A second vehicle was coming up, was distracted by people trying to slow him down and then looked up and then a second traffic collision occurred and that one was fatal."

Police say, "The initial indication is this was just a tragic accident. It appears Bean had come from between two vehicles when he was crossing the street and was not seen by the drivers." The old man "darted out between cars."

Nobody has explained how fast that second driver was going, and why they didn't stop when they were distracted by people trying to slow him down. That's just bizarre.

According to the LA Times, he had parked on the other side of the street from the theatre he was going to. “Many of us do this, including the audience,” [theater publicist] Borne said. “The crosswalk is out of the way. Many people ... just cross” the lanes.

New York Times Headline

New York Times headline/Screen capture

But the thing that also has me upset is the way the headlines are all getting written. After the Globe and Mail picked up the New York Times headline and obit, I wondered:

Globe and Mail tweet

Globe and Mail tweet/Screen capture

This got more than 600 likes and retweets along with some interesting comments:

Because it is just natural these days, forty thousand people dying every year directly because of cars.

No doubt there will be those who say that he shouldn't have walked out between cars, that he should have walked to the crosswalk.

But when you look at Google, the theatre is almost exactly halfway between the two signalized intersections, and I doubt anyone does that. And besides, it's LA, which needs a whole lot of fixing; according to the Times,

Bean’s death comes as new figures show that the number of people killed in car crashes in Los Angeles remains stubbornly high. In 2019, four years after Mayor Eric Garcetti launched the Vision Zero initiative to eliminate traffic deaths on city streets, 244 people died in collisions in Los Angeles, including 134 pedestrians and 19 cyclists.

There has been terrific progress in getting newspapers to say crash, not accident. But the next target should be to get them to write killed, not died. Because that's what happened here; he was killed by a driver who somehow was distracted by... people waving? There has to be more to this.

New York Post

New York Post/Screen capture

Other papers did a better job.