Blind man hit, guide dog killed

KENNEWICK, Wash. - The day after his dog was killed, Bernie Vinther says he still has to "dry my eyes once in a while. It's hard. I'll sure miss him."

"Kaber" was his beloved service dog. The lab mix had been part of Bernie's family for nearly a decade.

"Seemed so strange to come home last night and he wasn't at my feet greeting me," Bernie said.

Kaber's bed is sadly empty, his bones and toys unused, after a sudden crash killed the dog Wednesday night. Bernie was walking home from a meeting with Kennewick Police, where he has volunteered nearly 15 years.

Bernie was at West 6th Avenue and South Washington Street, when he started crossing the street with Kaber. At the same time, Victorino Mendoza was traveling north down the road. Victorino told me he was changing lanes and looked over his shoulder to check his blind spot. When he looked back, he had hit Bernie and his dog.

"There was no hesitation about being hit and how hurt I was, but mostly I was really scared," Bernie said softly.

The side mirror smashed right into Bernie. He has a black eye and bandages. Kaber likely went underneath the car, and died on the way to the vet.

"I was in tears a lot, not for my injuries but for the loss of my dog," Bernie said. "That's really, really hard to take and it's going to be that way for a while."

For Kennewick Police Sergeant Randy Maynard, he knows this is "a difficult position to be in. We're very grateful that Bernie is OK, and he's got a huge amount of support both from the full-time staff as well as volunteer staff."

The guide dog school has a counselors to help members cope with a loss like this.

Kennewick Police forwarded the case to the city attorney as normal procedure. At this point, they don't think Bernie was at fault. The city attorney will decide if anyone will be cited or face charges.

We did speak with the driver, Victorino Mendoza, over the phone. He chose not to go on camera.

A fund was set up for donations for Bernie. Interested parties can make donations at:
Washington Trust Bank
c/o Guide Dog Fund
3250 W. Clearwater Avenue
Kennewick, WA 99336
(509) 734-0450

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