On Tuesday, March 19th, two teenage sisters walking together to Middleton High School were struck by a fellow student driving her mom’s car. The sisters were hit as they ran across Hillsborough Avenue outside of the crosswalk.
According to local news reports, Norma Velasquez-Cabrera, age 15, sustained fatal injuries. Her 14-year-old sister, Victoria, was also struck, but her injuries were not as severe. This incident marks the ninth pedestrian accident on this same stretch of road since 2008. Last Tuesday’s latest pedestrian accident has neighbors living on and near this area of Hillsborough Avenue asking just what it might take to improve the road and make it safer.
Within only a few hours of the Middleton student pedestrian accident, fellow students from the high school resumed crossing Hillsborough Avenue at the exact same dangerous spot as school let out for the day. There is no crosswalk and no crossing guard near the Meridian Pointe apartment complex where many of the students live with their parents – something local residents have been requesting for quite some time because students use it as a shortcut.
The accident again raises the question of safety when it comes to crossing some of Tampa’s busiest roadways and traffic arteries. In October 2011, another Middleton student was killed while crossing the same road about one block away.
State records confirmed there had been eight previous incidents along this same stretch of Hillsborough Avenue over the past five years. Neighbors believe the issue is that there is a strip mall right across the street and it’s unreasonable to walk more than three blocks west, or five blocks east, to the nearest crosswalk.
Santos DeLeon, who resides in the same complex, says sometimes she’ll take the extra precaution, but that it’s inconveniently out of the way.
Neighbors also say Middleton students can be seen regularly using a shortcut behind the very same strip mall and walking across the street to an opening in a fence. It leads to a short path linked directly to the school parking lot.
The Florida Department of Transportation has said it will investigate this accident as matter of procedure and, given the deadly history of the intersection, decide if corrective action will be taken in the near future.
WTSP 10 News