The large family and friends of a Cloverdale great-grandmother who was killed in a downtown crosswalk beseeched the City Council on Wednesday night to install more lights and safety features at the street crossing to avoid another tragedy.
Approximately 60 relatives and acquaintances of Maria Ponce, 68, packed the council chamber to make an emotional appeal before marching several blocks away for a candlelight vigil at the spot where she was hit by a pickup on July 7.
"I don't want this tragedy to happen to another family. We are really suffering now," Erlinda Ponce, the eldest daughter of the woman, told the council. "I want some justice done."
"You took away the most beautiful, vibrant woman I've known," said Maria Ponce's youngest daughter, Delia Ponce, who blamed the city for not making safety improvements after previous accidents involving pedestrians in the same crosswalk. "Don't put a price tag on someone's head. Please address that, so no one else is taken from someone they love."
Mayor Joe Palla expressed his "sincere condolences to you and your family" and said there is "an ongoing investigation into the facts surrounding this unfortunate event."
It was the third pedestrian fatality in Cloverdale in less than three years, although the others took place at different locations and during the day.
One in December 2010 occurred on North Main Street, killing an 83-year-old man. The 17-year-old driver left the scene.
Another accident in January of this year resulted in the death of an 87-year-old woman who was knocked over by a slow moving car in a downtown parking lot.
The latest nighttime accident launched a stepped-up enforcement by Cloverdale Police on Wednesday at the crosswalk on South Cloverdale Boulevard where the fatality occurred. Using an undercover decoy, police cited nine motorists for failure to yield to the pedestrian and gave out two warnings.
Sgt. Stephen Cramer said it was to help get "the message out to the public that pedestrians have the right-of-way. Vehicles are supposed to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalks."
But for Ponce's family, it was too little, too late. They said the city should install flashing lights or embedded lights in the street to make it safer, and it should have been done after previous pedestrians were hurt.
"It angered me," Ponce's youngest daughter said of what she termed a belated police crackdown on drivers at the crosswalk. "They should have done it before. Not now."
As if to underscore the hazards of the crosswalk, two people at the vigil were connected to previous accidents at the same intersection.
Andy Barreras, 61, of Cloverdale, said he was hit by a vehicle there on a morning in 2011 and suffered injuries to his hip and arm that still give him pain. "I'm very lucky that I'm still around," he said.
And Magdalena Ruiz said her 15-year-old son, Saul Soriano, was struck down and had his skull fractured while crossing the street there on Jan. 22. "The car didn't stop." she said, adding that the driver "said she was distracted."
She said her son continues to see a neurologist for his headaches.
Ponce, a mother of nine children, with 33 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren, was taking her usual walk after dinner with her longtime companion, Atanacio Ramirez Jr.
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