Sunnyside volunteer struck, killed by motorist

Sunnyside resident and community volunteer Ronnie Shifflett, 54, died Friday night after he was struck by a 1987 Ford Aerostar van in the 200 block of North Avenue in Sunnyside.

Shifflett, a volunteer crossing guard with the Sunnyside School District, was riding his bicycle when at about 8:45 p.m. he was struck by the vehicle. It was driven by Gerardo R. Maciel, 43, of Toppenish, according to Washington State Patrol Trooper Todd Sharpe. When booked into the Sunnyside jail, Maciel told jailers that he lives in Outlook.

According to a report from the Washington State Patrol, Maciel was traveling eastbound in the westbound lane on North Avenue when he hit Shifflett, who was riding his bicycle westbound on North Avenue.

Shifflett's family was at the Cornerstone Assembly of God Church at the time of the crash.

His daughter, Carolyn Shifflett, said that as she was leaving the church she saw a police car with a van in front of it.

"I just thought they were getting pulled over," she said. "I prayed for the people in the van and went on my way. I didn't think there was an accident at all."

Shifflett and her mother, Carolyn Shifflett, left the church and went to a local retail business, where they were later notified of Ronnie Shifflett's death.

When the family returned home the day after Shifflett's death, they found that their house had been burglarized, too.

The Sunnyside Police Department called in the Washington State Patrol to investigate the crash because of its expertise, said Sunnyside Police Capt. Phil Schenck.

Shifflett was named the Sunnyside School District Volunteer of the Year for the 2003-04 school year and was presented a Golden Apple at a ceremony held this past spring. Harrison Middle School gave him a bicycle to honor his achievement. He was a volunteer with the school district for 10 years, working at the high school, middle school and Chief Kamiakin Elementary School.

During the school year, Shifflett could be found wearing a bright orange safety vest carrying a crossing flag. He served as a crossing guard for Harrison Middle School students at the intersection of 16th Street and Harrison Avenue.

"He was a real asset to the school district," said Sunnyside School District Superintendent Dr. Rick Cole. "He cared a great deal for kids and for their safety."

He added that Shifflett's death is a great loss to the school district.

"We're going to miss him," said Cole.

Shifflett's body was taken to the Yakima County Coronor's Office for an autopsy. According to the Yakima County Coronor's Office, Shifflett died from instantaneous cardiac arrest due to blunt trauma.

Maciel, who was uninjured in the crash, was arrested and taken to the Sunnyside jail and initially charged with vehicular or negligent homicide. He was transferred to Yakima County Jail this morning (Monday), where he will be arraigned.

. Melissa Dekker can be contacted at (509) 837-4500, or e-mail


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