Ian Michael McFate, born in Overland Park, Kansas on May 6, 1999, was an eighth grader who was actively involved in band, chorus, and cross country, and also enjoyed geocaching, playing tennis, golf, video gaming, Taekwondo, and soccer. Ian was looking forward to high school.
On the afternoon of October 1, 2012, while running cross-country practice after school on the Tama-Toledo Recreation Trail, Ian was nearing the end of the run when a driver heading west out of town on Highway E49 hit him. According to investigators, the vehicle’s driver had just picked up his kids from daycare and was heading home. He told investigators that something fell from his passenger seat to the floorboard. He quickly looked down, looked back up, and did not notice Ian until it was too late, and the impact occurred. Ian was flown to Mercy Medical Center, where he remained on life support until he died on October 2, 2012.
Since the crash, Ian’s family has become strong advocates for safe driving. Their aim is to prevent any future accidents and honor Ian’s memory. Their idea is to educate drivers and pedestrians about the dangers of distracted driving. “I’s Up” (Eyes Up) was born in honor of Ian’s memory. Ian’s father chose the name because it reminded him of his son. He says,”… Ian’s Up above watching over us, and that all of us here on Earth need to keep our Eyes Up no matter if we are driving, resting, walking, running, bicycling, geocaching, or doing anything that might put us, or others, in harm’s way.”
Weeks after Ian’s passing, community leaders took steps to improve pedestrian and motorist safety on the roads. The cities of Tama and Toledo partnered to add pedestrian stop signs at road crossings along the trail where he was hit. The towns also planned to add stop signs or slow speed limits on streets intersecting with the trail so that drivers could be more cautious.
Ian and his father shared a love for geocaching, enjoying the adventure together. His father fondly recalls, “I miss him deeply. Truth be told, he was faster and more fearless than me, often taking the lead in our caching expeditions.” As a tribute to his cherished memory, several geocaches have been set up in areas where Ian used to practice cross country and around his childhood haunts. Additionally, a memorial rock and bench were placed nearby, currently located along the South Tama Rec Trail.
The passing of Ian shows how a second of not paying attention on the road can leave irreparable damage to the victims and their families. His father says, “It didn’t take much effort on my part to realize that distracted driving has taken many lives and touched many, many more. “