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Child's death in South Gate crosswalk prompts calls for safety devices

Ricardo Mercado, 10, was struck and killed by a motorist Saturday while crossing Tweedy Boulevard. His mother and sisters were injured. The incident is under investigation.

August 24, 2009|Molly Hennessy-Fiske

Relatives and neighbors of a 10-year-old South Gate boy who was struck and killed in a crosswalk Saturday called on city officials to install more safety devices at the busy intersection.

Ricardo Mercado was killed while crossing Tweedy Boulevard at San Vincente Avenue with his mother and two sisters at 11:24 a.m. They were on their way home after buying Popsicles at a nearby store.

A woman driving a Volkswagen SUV was making a left turn from San Vincente Avenue onto Tweedy Boulevard when she struck the family, said Sgt. Tim Williams of the South Gate Police Department. The driver pulled over and was cooperating with investigators, he said.

Williams said there was no sign the woman attempted to stop. It was not clear how fast she was driving, he said. At least one witness said she was talking on a cellphone, Williams said. "The driver apparently didn't see them in the crosswalk," he said.

Ricardo died at the scene. Witnesses said his two sisters, Anita, 12, and Leticia, 6, were also injured. Their mother, Ana, who is pregnant, tried to get to her son, but she could not reach him because her leg was broken, relatives said.

Ana Mercado, 35, and her two daughters were taken to Long Beach Memorial Hospital, Williams said. Leticia was treated for a broken left leg and Anita for scrapes, said Ana Jauregui, a friend who visited the family at the hospital Sunday. The family could not be reached.

The driver of the SUV, whose name and age were not released Sunday, was not charged in connection with the crash, but police were still investigating, Williams said.

Ana Mercado told visitors at the hospital Sunday that she saw the driver stopped at a stop sign on San Vincente. She said she does not remember what happened next.

The family wants the business district on Tweedy Boulevard, called Tweedy Mile, made safer for other pedestrians, Jauregui said.

"They want them to do something with this street because every time people pass through here, it's dangerous," Jauregui said as she stood near the accident site.

The speed limit is 30 mph, but the limit is not posted near the crash site. The nearest traffic lights are several streets away. The crosswalk, like several others on Tweedy, is painted on the pavement without reflectors or lights.

Williams said there have been no other recent crashes at the intersection, although there have been some on Tweedy Mile, mostly, he said, due to heavy pedestrian traffic.

South Gate City Councilman Bill Dewitt visited the scene Saturday and said the council plans to consider whether the intersection needs added traffic signals, which would require a traffic study. He said no one had petitioned for a lighted crosswalk there, but plans are already underway to make Tweedy more pedestrian friendly by narrowing the road and adding angled parking.

Relatives described Ricardo as a kind boy who wanted to be a pilot. He spent part of the summer volunteering at the school he and his younger sister attend, San Gabriel Avenue Elementary in South Gate, where their mother works in the cafeteria, (Anita attends South Gate Middle School). The family had recently returned from a vacation in Mexico, Ramirez said. Next week, Ricardo was to start fifth grade.

Teresa Dominguez, 39, who lives near the intersection, said she has been pressuring city officials for years to add flashing lights.

"The city," she said, "should have already done something."

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Times staff writer Julie Cart contributed to this report.

molly.hennessy-fiske @latimes.com

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