A car struck two Tampa students as they walked to school, killing one.
Sisters Victoria and Norma Velasquez-Cabrera were crossing Hillsborough Avenue on the 2500 block to get to Middleton High at about 7:15 a.m. on a recent Tuesday. A car in the center lane stopped to let them cross. But a car approaching from the far lane, driven by Deja Johnson, aged 17 and a fellow student, continued past. Johnson struck the two girls, and Norma passed away after a four-day coma.
Tampa personal injury attorney Robert Joyce calls attention to the fact that this is not the first fatal accident involving a Middleton student crossing six-lane Hillsborough Avenue.
“In 2011, a 15-year-old named Shenika Davis was killed while walking to Middleton as well,” Mr. Joyce says.
Tampa police have ramped up enforcement efforts in the area for both drivers and pedestrians. Both of the girls who were killed on their way to school were crossing between crosswalks. Police spokeswoman Andrea Davis says that, since November 1, 2013, police have issued 946 citations and 504 warnings to drivers and pedestrians.
Also, Middleton High held an assembly for all students with a 30-minute pedestrian-safety presentation imploring them to wear bright colors, cross at crosswalks and be alert.
Police say that a preliminary investigation showed Johnson had no fault in the accident. But Velasquez-Cabrera’s family wants to see the city do more to prevent similar tragedies in the future.
“It’s not a safe street,” Mauricio Guttierez, Norma and Victoria’s uncle, told the Tampa Bay Times. “How many more victims do we have to wait for?”
Mr. Joyce says that enforcement efforts should make a difference for as long as they go on, but may not have a lasting impact.
“Can the city afford to keep extra officers there indefinitely?” he wonders. “If not, enforcement may not solve the safety problem.”