Cloverdale faces nine claims over fatal crosswalk accident

  • Rosa Salas walks her dog Tyson across South Cloverdale Boulevard in the crosswalk with newly installed flashing lights, at the corner Healdsburg Avenue in Cloverdale, Calif., on January 3, 2014. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

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.

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