Noted scholar, scientist and civic servant dies after being struck by car near Olympus High

Published May 14, 2009 11:13 am
Cyrus McKell » 83-year-old was a prominent Holladay resident, city official and academic
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An 83-year-old, award-winning scholar and scientist has died after he was struck by a car Wednesday afternoon while fixing sprinklers in a yard across the street from Olympus High School.

Cyrus McKell, of Holladay, was fixing a sprinkler in a yard adjacent to a condominium complex near 4000 S. along 2300 East when a northbound car came careening off of the road and over a curb along the west side of 2300 East.

Salt Lake County sheriff's investigators said the 86-year-old driver -- whose identity was not immediately released but is one of McKell's friends and neighbors -- likely suffered from some sort of medical condition and blacked out just before he drove off the road.

Sheriff's Lt. Don Hutson said the driver was "somewhat incoherent" when he talked to investigators. The driver was not injured, but emergency crews took him to a local hospital as a precaution, Hutson said.

"Age may have been a factor, but there was no sign of alcohol or drugs," Hutson said.

The driver has not been cited, but the District Attorney's Office will screen the case for potential charges when the Sheriff's Office finishes its investigation, Hutson said.

McKell had been a member of the Holladay City Planning Commission for six years and had twice chaired the commission. McKell was a retired Botanist who wrote Holladay's tree-selection guide and was active on the city's Interfaith Council. His second term on the commission was set to expire next month.

Holladay Mayor Dennis Webb said it was typical that McKell was out fixing something when he was struck, because he was always working to make the community better.

"He was such a valuable member of our community in so many ways," said Holladay Mayor Dennis Webb, who called McKell a "gentle soul, not quick to anger."

"We all mourn as a city when something so unexpected happens," Webb said. "Our hearts are so drawn to his family and the neighbors." McKell also was a former dean of the College of Science at Weber State University and a former professor at Utah State University.

McKell earned a Ph.D. from Oregon State University and later won various awards for his work and research, including the governor's medal for science and technology. McKell also funded a scholarship awarded to students in Weber State University's Botany Department.

Said Webb: "We have faith and assurance that we will continue to know Cy and have association with him in the future. We all share that feeling of faith."

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