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Cloverdale is facing nine claims stemming from the death of a 68-year-old woman in a crosswalk last summer, including one from the driver who struck her.

The eight children of Maria Ponce all filed claims this month against Cloverdale - a precursor to a lawsuit -#8212; alleging that city officials were negligent in failing to correct the dangerous conditions at the crosswalk.

Guadalupe Castro Barragan, 83, the pickup driver who struck Ponce the night of July 7, also filed a claim stating that he had to undergo the trauma of being involved in a fatal accident, as well as the stigma and costs associated with the criminal charges filed against him.

"They knew it was a dark area," said Gloria Ponce, who noted there had been previous accidents at the crossing prior before her mother's death, but the city failed to take corrective action.

"They put a price tag on people's lives," she asserted Monday. "They know they need upgrades on crosswalks, but the city moves very poorly in that area."

The claims are scheduled for consideration by the City Council on Wednesday. City administrators recommend they be rejected and referred to the Redwood Empire Municipal Insurance Fund, which covers Cloverdale and more than a dozen other cities.

City Manager Paul Cayler on Monday declined to comment on the claims, which seek "in excess" of $10,000 apiece.

After Ponce was struck and killed in the crosswalk, members of her large family -#8212; consisting of eight surviving children and 33 grandchildren -#8212; implored the City Council to put in safety improvements.

The city hired a traffic consultant to study the intersection at Healdsburg Avenue, just south of the Citrus Fair. Then, two teenage boys were hit in the crosswalk by a pickup and injured on Halloween night.

One of the boys had both legs broken and spent weeks in the hospital.

That spurred another outcry from more than 100 citizens, mostly from the Ponce family and Latino community, beseeching the City Council to do something.

The Police Department acknowledged that there had been five accidents at the intersection in the past year involving pedestrians, or bicyclists struck by vehicles, and recommended a four-way stop.

Instead, the city earlier this month installed a $60,000 LightGuard system, with road-embedded, flashing amber lights on each side of the crosswalk, touted as one of the most effective systems for getting motorists to notice pedestrians and stop.

The city also added a second overhead street light and the speed limit was reduced from 35 miles per hour to 25.

According to Cloverdale Police, a main factor in the fatal accident was that Castro Barragan was not wearing corrective lenses as required by his driver's license.

But his wife, Petra Estrada, on Monday insisted that he was wearing them at the time of the accident.

In a phone interview, she said he took off his glasses when he got out of his truck after striking the woman.

"He took them off and put them in his bag," she said in Spanish.

But that is contrary to information in the Cloverdale Police report which said Castro Barragan stated he wears reading glasses, but was not wearing any contacts or glasses at the time of the collision.

He was cited for not wearing corrective lenses as required by his driver's license, as well as failure to yield the right-of-way.

Prosecutors filed charges of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.

With courts closed Monday, it was not possible to verify the status of the case. But Estrada said the charges against her husband have not been resolved.

Court records show that Castro Barragan has been convicted three times for drunken driving in Sonoma County, in 1991, 1993 and 2012.

But according to police, drinking and drugs did not appear to be a factor in the accident.

His license was suspended effective the day of the accident because to canceled insurance, police said.

Castro Barragan said he was going southbound, about 15 mph, slower than usual, because it was dark, according to police.

He stated that he did not see anyone in the road or on the sidewalks as he approached the intersection.

The police report said the one street lamp that partially illuminates the crosswalk appeared to be functioning normally.

Just prior to entering the intersection, the driver said, he saw two people directly in front of his vehicle.

He swerved, but said he was unable to avoid hitting Ponce, according to the police report.

Gloria Ponce said she is glad the driver filed a claim against the city.

"He probably has every right to file it," she said. "Even if he has his glasses on, I don't think he could have seen my mom. It's a dark intersection."

Ponce said she is gratified that the city has made the crosswalk safer.

"I'm glad they did something. It was a little too late, but it will save other people's lives," she said.

You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or clark.mason@pressdemocrat.com

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