Described as a "real light" and "joyful spirit," Sharree Walls was killed Saturday night in New Orleans by a suspected drunk driver as she bicycled down Esplanade Avenue after the Endymion parade.
Walls, 27, was one of nine bicyclists struck by a speeding car around 8 p.m. Sunday between the 3200 and 3400 blocks of Esplanade. One other cyclist, 31-year-old David Hynes — a lawyer based out of Seattle — was also killed.
Hynes had recently moved out of New Orleans, but was back in town for Mardi Gras, relatives said.
He was also newly married, to Jorie Kirschbaum Hynes, his mother-in-law Patti Kirschbaum said.
"Oh my God, they just got married a year ago," Kirschbaum told The New Orleans Advocate when reached by phone on Sunday. "He was going to be there for a few days only. And she was going to meet him in New Orleans."
One of the victims killed in a horrific crash Saturday night by a man suspected of driving drunk was a lawyer who had just moved from New Orle…
Walls was a young professional who had recently worked her way up to become executive director of Emerging Philanthropists of New Orleans, friends confirmed. She was in her 10th month in the job at the organization, which provides financial support for projects in underserved communities.
She’d come there after roles with the YMCA of Greater New Orleans, PowerMoves NOLA and the Idea Village, according to a profile page on the EPNO website.
Her work also extended beyond just her day job, colleague David Robinson-Morris said, as she was active with numerous community-focused organizations, and even had her own online company, called Solace, which integrated art and design into home and office items.
Her career in New Orleans started shortly after graduating magna cum laude in urban studies from the University of Pennsylvania — an Ivy League university — in 2013.
“Our hearts at EPNO are extremely heavy to the point that it’s not even consolable at this point,” said Robinson-Morris, the chairman of the EPNO board. “We were looking forward to everything she was going to do.
Walls also worked with the group “Friends of Lafitte Greenway,” with several of those struck appearing to be involved with the group.
Surveillance video captured the moment when a suspected intoxicated driver in a sports car crashed into bicyclists in the Bayou St. John neigh…
Andy Kopplin, president and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Foundation, called Walls' death a "devastating loss."
"She just had a joyful spirit that was both inspiring and infectious," Kopplin said.
According to family members and other sources, both Walls and Hynes appear to have been traveling in the same group of at least five people associated either professionally or through a shared interest in environmental justice causes.
On Sunday, Hynes' mother confirmed that her son knew at least two of the other victims who were injured. She said she didn't want to believe the news, but was forced to confront it when the coroner's office called her.
"I just did not want it to be my sweet child," Anne Kimmel said tearfully. "He was such a sweet, sweet boy."
Kimmel described her son as happy and "so full of life." He and his wife had just moved into a three-bedroom apartment, she said, to make room for their newly adopted dog and, perhaps, a child. She also said he had recently become more cautious than he had been in years prior, and credited the behavior to his wife.
"His life was just starting," she said. "He wasn't reckless anymore, because he was in love with his wife."
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Hynes had been working as an associate in the Seattle office of the law firm Selman Breitman, according to online records. He specialized in insurance, commercial litigation and environmental law.
Before joining Selman Breitman, Hynes worked as staff counsel for State Farm, in the insurer's New Orleans and Seattle offices, where he defended insured people in state and federal court.
A photograph on Facebook showed Hynes and his wife walking along the Magnolia Bridge over Bayou St. John. Kirschbaum Hynes couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
In addition to Hynes and Walls, a 28-year-old woman from the Bayou St. John neighborhood was also hit, and was listed in critical condition after suffering a ruptured lung. Another 28-year-old woman possibly suffered a neck fracture but was listed in stable condition. A 56-year-old woman had neck injuries as well but was also listed in stable condition.
A 31-year-old man had bruises, cuts and other minor injuries. A 62-year-old man had a back injury. Another 56-year-old woman had an unspecified injury, and a 27-year-old woman refused to be taken to the hospital after complaining of head pain.
At least two of the victims were from out of state. Several had local addresses, court records showed.
Witnesses said Tashonty Toney, the man accused of plowing his Camaro into nine bicyclists on Esplanade Avenue on Saturday evening, was so drun…
Bobbie Vinson, a resident of the area who saw the immediate aftermath of the crash, said Esplanade is a popular, and “smart” route for cyclists looking to leave the Endymion parade route.
“It should be the safest way to get home,” she said.
The driver, Tashonty Toney, 32, faces two counts of vehicular homicide, seven counts of vehicular negligent injuring, hit-and-run and reckless operation, New Orleans police spokesman Andy Cunningham said in a news release early Sunday.
Toney didn't appear to have any prior criminal record, a records search shows.
Other witnesses reported that Toney was so inebriated after the crash that he had to be revived.
Those witnesses said Toney was headed riverbound on Esplanade in a Camaro when he tried to pass another vehicle on the right. The sports car drifted into the cyclists’ lane and accelerated, reaching a speed one witness estimated at 80 mph.
After plowing into several people, the car struck Esplanade’s neutral ground, spun dramatically and came to a stop facing in the lakebound — or opposite — direction.
A witness — cyclist Frank Rourk — told The Advocate he saw the man now identified as Toney jump out of his car shirtless, run to the corner of North Lopez and Bell streets, lay down on the sidewalk, and lose consciousness.
He said he and two others managed to rouse the driver back to consciousness, at which point he remarked: “Call my daddy — call my daddy. He’s NOPD.”
Tashonty Toney, the man who killed two people and injured seven others after being suspected of drunk driving in the Bayou St. John neighborho…
NOPD spokesman Andy Cunningham early Sunday confirmed that Toney is the son of an NOPD officer but said that fact “does not change and will not impact our department’s investigation, which will be open and transparent."
-Staff writer John Simerman contributed to this report.