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Intersection Improvements Needed at Site Where Samyra Lee, 7, Was Killed

Samyra Lee. Photo: Nesia Lee

Last month the driver of a tractor towing mowing equipment struck and killed seven-year-old Samyra Lee as she crossed an Englewood Street while holding hands with her mother. Changes to the intersection are needed to stop another tragic incident like this from occuring again.

On the morning of Friday, May 27, at around 7:45 a.m., Samyra was walking to Providence Englewood Charter, where she attended first grade, with her mother Julicia Lee when they attempted to cross Ashland Avenue at 65th Street, according to police. The stoplight turned red before they made it to the other side, police said.

“The light is so short,’’ Nesia Lee, Samyra’s aunt told the Chicago Tribune. “Before she knew it, [the tractor driver] hit her and she flew and fell. When she got up, my niece was down the street … just bleeding so bad."

Samyra was transported to Comer Children’s Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Julicia, 24, received hip injuries in the crash but refused treatment, and instead headed to the children’s hospital to be with her daughter.

The tractor driver was cited for failure to reduce speed to avoid a crash. The vehicle is owned by a company with a contract with the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation.

On Monday, DNAinfo reported that neighbors are calling for safety improvements to the intersection in the wake of the tragedy. Parents whose children attend the charter school, located at 6515 South Ashland, said that pedestrians crossing Ashland at 65th get a very short green signal and often have to “take their chances” to get across.

They added that the intersection should have a crossing guard. A staffer for local alderman Toni Foulkes told DNA crossing guards were stationed at the intersection back when the school was Ralph A. Bunche Elementary School, but that stopped after the school became a charter.

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 11.33.24 AM
Faded crosswalks at the intersection need to be re-striped, and there's plenty of room for a pedestrian island. Image: Google Street View

Regina Mayden, who lives across the street from the school, told DNA that, although there are pedestrian crossing buttons at the intersection, residents often don’t wait for the light to change because it takes so long to get a walk signal.

Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Mike Claffey told DNA that the department will study the case, as they do with all pedestrian fatalities.

To help prevent such a tragic loss of life from occurring again at this location, the city and the school should consider some of the following solutions: reinstating the crossing guards, re-striping the faded crosswalks, adding pedestrian refuge islands, and building curb bump-outs to shorten the crossing distance.

Fatality Tracker: 2016 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths
Pedestrian: 13 (seven were hit-and-run crashes)

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