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Drivers Get Message to Slow Down

Tragedy: Parents, neighbors gather at intersection one day after crossing guard is killed. They renew push for traffic light.

November 23, 2000|RICHARD FAUSSET | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

NORTH HOLLYWOOD — The day after a city crossing guard was struck and killed in front of Lankershim Elementary School, parents and neighbors gathered at the corner, imploring drivers to slow down and reiterating their long-standing request for a traffic light at the intersection.

"Look at that, look at that!" yelled area resident Theresa Newham, pointing at a car that failed to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk at Magnolia Boulevard and Bakman Avenue. "I've been to meeting after meeting asking for a light, and nothing's happened."

Before school Tuesday morning, a 17-year-old North Hollywood boy driving east on busy Magnolia Boulevard swerved onto the curb, striking and killing crossing guard William Hooper, 60, of Tujunga. Police said the boy apparently lost control of the car and did not appear to be speeding, but an investigation is ongoing. The teenager has not been arrested or charged.

The boy's stepmother, Launa Hunt, said she signed a petition three years ago requesting a traffic light on the corner after a child was hit and injured by a motorist. Her younger stepson completed the fifth grade at Lankershim Elementary last year, she said.

City Council President John Ferraro said his office previously had requested a light at the intersection. The request was denied last year, transportation officials said.

"If people knew a light or sign was there, they could never really build up any speed to kill anybody," Hunt said. "I don't know why they didn't put a light in."

A new traffic light petition was being circulated Wednesday by Maria Garcia, 52, a parents' representative at the school. Garcia said she had already gathered about 500 signatures.

"This place is so dangerous!" she said, yelling over the afternoon traffic.

School officials were planning a community meeting with officials from the police and transportation departments to discuss remedies at the corner.

In a possible solution, John Fisher, an assistant general manager of the city Department of Transportation, said the city might install a series of yellow warning lights above the street that would be activated when pedestrians step into the crosswalk.

The city, he said, has the intersection on its tentative short list to receive the yellow warning lights, which cost about $20,000 to $25,000--about one-fourth the cost of a full signal. Fisher said the city is backed up with other projects, and he is not sure when the lights could be installed.

In the meantime, city officials said, two crossing guards have been placed at the intersection indefinitely.

A number of Lankershim Elementary students saw the accident, Principal Debbie Martinez-Rambeau said. The school assembled a crisis team Wednesday, explaining the accident to students and offering psychological counseling to those who needed it.

Hooper's family members spent the day working on funeral arrangements for the Navy and Air Force veteran who had been employed as a crossing guard since September of last year.

"He knew intellectually he was doing an important job, but he'd say that people don't treat you well when you're out there," Hooper's fiancee, Carol Armstrong, said.

Launa Hunt said her family has also spent the past two days grieving for Hooper. Family members have also tried to help her son cope with the accident, Hunt said.

Just before the accident, Hunt said, her son had dropped his brother off at Walter Reed Middle School, and was returning to her to see whether she needed any other chores done. The accident, she said, has left him devastated.

"I'm trying to get him some spiritual counseling," she said. "He's got a lot of God-related questions, [like] 'What will this do to my soul?' "

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