Elise Kaplan, excellent reporter and writer for the Albuquerque Journal, weaves both the personal and the crime reporting into her story this morning on the death of 12-year-old Eliza “Justine” Almuina. The 6th Grader was killed very near her middle school on Louisiana Boulevard Thursday.
That story is, of course, heart-wrenching and maddening.
Heart-wrenching, sure. But why “of course” maddening?
Because Ms. Kaplan performs well her duty of reporting what Albuquerque Police Department (APD) investigators think happened and whether blame/charges should be assigned. As is the norm, APD thoughts are passed on to us by Spokesperson Simon Drobik. Here’s what Mr. Drobik had to say to Ms. Kaplan and other reporters about the incident:
“It was after hours, so no flashing lights, no crossing guards, there was not an expectation that someone would be in that school zone at 5 o’clock,” Drobik said, calling it a “tragic turn of events.”
Another element in this excellent story is an illustration of what happened. I usually ask for permission to use such illustrations, but it’s the weekend, the illustration is excellent, the story too topical to wait, and, perhaps most important, my outrage about the quote above prevents me from that process only to say I hope “C. Cunningham” at the Journal doesn’t mind:
Yeah. The girls are in the crosswalk. They are using, properly, the crosswalk. The blue car in the inside lane recognizes the rules regarding crossing in a crosswalk. This is not a “tragic accident,” as asserted by Office Drobik elsewhere in the story. Nevertheless, my outrage in reading this today does not prevent me from realizing the following:
- I feel terrible for the 76-year-old person who struck and killed Eliza Almuina.
- I also feel terrible for the driver in the blue car who witnessed this horror and all the other witnesses, none more so than the other young girl who “made it.”
- I know Spokesperson Drobik is merely articulating the position of the Police Department and its investigators about the incident.
- I was not there at the time of the incident, and was in no way involved in the investigation. I know only what I read in reports such as that by Ms. Kaplan and C. Cunningham.
All that being realized and considered, I think it still objectively correct to state that the position of the Albuquerque Police Department in this matter appears to be 100% wrong.
As noted here from New Mexico traffic statues:
A. When traffic-control signals are not in place or not in operation the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.
B. No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield.
I feel terrible for the 76-year-old driver, but the blue car stopped. The blue car yielded at the crosswalk. The children provided enough time to make it possible for the driver of the blue car to yield.
As for not being able to see the kids over the blue car, let us not speculate on whether the 76-year-old’s SUV wasn’t tall enough to enable a view of the children. Although such speculation is hard to resist. Let’s instead ask: “Why do you think the blue car stopped in the middle of busy Louisiana Boulevard at a crosswalk in the middle of the afternoon in the first place?”
What person in their right mind would do this UNLESS someone was crossing the crosswalk? It would be insane to stop on Louisiana, especially at Natalie Avenue near one of the busiest intersections in the city at Montgomery and Louisiana. As noted, the blue car was provided enough time by the children to yield. Obviously. And the driver of that blue car yielded first, chronologically before the 76-year-old driver arrived, without yielding, at the crosswalk.
As readers know, Better Burque has been following the pedestrian fatality epidemic in Albuquerque and elsewhere for two or three years now. I’ve seen enough police crash reports of grisly pedestrian deaths to get at least somewhat used to reading and contemplating such incidents. Nah, that’s actually a bit of a lie. I’m still not used to it.
And I’m still anything but comfortable thinking the stated position of the Albuquerque Police Department is that Thursday’s killing of Eliza Almuina was a “tragic accident.” It was tragic, alright. But it was no “accident.”
Unraveling why that is so and putting such unraveling into accurate enforcement of traffic laws and inculcating a general, pervasive public mindset that humans have a right to walk on and across our roads safely, will take time, persistence and attention to this tragedy long after most of us have forgotten about this incident.
Let us work on this unraveling and not forget.