AVONDALE — Avondale neighbors are demanding the city install a stop sign at the dangerous intersection where a 5-year-old boy was struck by a driver and seriously injured Wednesday evening.
The boy was struck by the driver of a four-door sedan, a 72-year-old man, at about 4:45 p.m. Wednesday at Elston and Francisco avenues, according to police.
The crash happened right in front of print and design studio Urban Imaging at 3246 N. Elston Ave. Gloria Rojas, office manager at Urban Imaging, said she heard a loud screeching noise and ran out to help.
“Everyone was screaming and he just was laying there. His little shoe was off. It was just horrible,” Rojas said.
The boy is a student at the nearby Greenfields Academy at 3232 N. Elston Ave., school founder Rob Huge confirmed. At the time of the crash, the boy was with his teacher and about five other kids.
Huge said the group was coming back from recess at Brands Park, which is right across the street, when the driver swerved around a stopped car and hit the boy at the south end of the intersection of Elston and Francisco avenues.
The other kids were “hysterical,” Rojas said.
The boy was taken to Lurie Children’s Hospital with a head injury. Police said he is in serious condition.
Huge declined to comment on the boy’s condition, citing privacy issues. The school founder said nothing like this has ever happened near the school since it opened six years ago and that he brought in a trauma counselor yesterday to help the other children at the school, which has students from pre-K to eighth grade, cope.
“We’ve crossed that intersection maybe 2,000 times at this point, and we’ve never had a problem,” Huge said.
Rojas said the day after the crash parents were on their hands and knees trying to scrub away the skid marks left by the driver “so kids wouldn’t be scared.”
“That’s how traumatic it’s been for all of us,” she said.
Installing a stop sign is a ‘no-brainer’
According to neighbors, the intersection where the boy was hit is notoriously dangerous — and has been for years.
“People fly down Elston. It could be a highway,” neighbor Jesse Ortega said.
It’s a recipe for disaster, neighbors said, because the area is always busy with children. There are three schools in the area, including Greenfields Academy, Huge said. Brands Park also attracts a lot of children.
Installing a stop sign at the southern end of the intersection is a “no-brainer,” Ortega said. Ortega runs an Allstate Insurance agency at 3238 N. Elston Ave., near where the crash occurred. The business has been in Ortega’s family for 35 years.
“How do you not have one here? Somebody just missed that. Of course a stop sign should be there,” he said.
Both Huge and Rojas asked the city to install a stop sign at the southern end of the intersection years ago and nothing ever came of it.
Now the community is rallying together to demand the city install a stop sign at the site of the crash. Ortega said his group, the Avondale Neighborhood Association, is meeting about it on Monday.
“I’m definitely going to be very passionate about seeing something gets done,” Ortega said.
Chris Poulos, chief of staff for 33rd Ward Ald. Rosanna Rodriguez-Sanchez, said the office has fielded a lot of requests from neighbors since the crash. Poulos said the alderman is working on getting a stop sign installed. They had hoped initially to install a temporary sign. She has introduced an ordinance and asked CDOT for an expedited traffic study, he said.
But Rojas said she’s frustrated officials didn’t install a stop sign years ago when she and Huge made requests.
“It took a little 5-year-old to be injured. It should’ve been before, “she said. “Rob had put in a request five years ago. I put in a request a couple of years ago. The neighbors upstairs, too. People have requested a stop sign here. It’s just not safe.”
Huge noted, however, that while he wants to see a stop sign installed, he’s not sure it would’ve prevented this particular incident.
“I don’t know how you protect against someone who is going to swerve around traffic,” Huge said. “I don’t know what he was thinking. It’s hard to protect against that.’
The driver was cited for failure to stop for a pedestrian in the crosswalk.
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