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In the Wake of Daniel Solis’ Death, Alderman Cardenas Wants Safety Improvements

A memorial to Daniel Solis at the crash site. Photo: Jean Khut

In the response to the death of 5-year-old Daniel Solis, who was fatally struck by a driver last week at 37th and Ashland in McKinley Park, the Chicago Department of Transportation will conduct a traffic study at the intersection. "Stuff like this just breaks my heart because it could have been prevented," said local alderman George Cardenas, who requested the study.

On Wednesday, March 15, at 8:08 a.m., Daniel and his 24-year-old father were crossing westbound in the south leg of the intersection, according to police. McKinley Park resident Carlos Arnaud Jr., 41, was heading east on 37th in a pick-up truck when he made a right turn, striking the pedestrians.

Daniel’s father suffered minor injuries and declined medical treatment, police said. Daniel, who lived at the 4800 block of South Honore Street, was taken to Stroger Hospital in critical condition. He was pronounced dead at 5:47 p.m., according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

Arnaud stayed on the scene and was cited for failure to exercise due care to pedestrians in the roadway. He is scheduled to appear in traffic court at the Daley Center, 50 West Washington, on April 25.

“It’s a horrible, horrible tragedy,” Cardenas’ director of policy Liliana Escarpita. The intersection lies within Cardenas’ district, the 12th Ward, as well as the 11th Ward, where the alderman is Patrick Daley Thompson. (Thompson did not immediately respond to an interview request.) According to Escarpita, Daniel lived on the 1600 block of West 38th Place, around the corner from the crash site.

“We have ordered a traffic study of the intersection by the Chicago Department of Transportation,” Escarpita said. “We have been in contact with Daniel’s family and the local schools. We want to make sure this never happens again.” Namaste Charter School, which the boy attended, is located near the intersection at 3737 South Paulina.

CDOT spokesman Mike Claffey confirmed that the department will be studying the intersection. "Our hearts go out to the family members of young Daniel Solis who are faced with this preventable and tragic loss of life," Claffey said. "We will review the circumstances of this crash and act on the alderman’s request... We are reminded once again of the importance our efforts through the Vision Zero Chicago initiative to eliminate crashes that cause fatalities and serious injuries."  

Daniel Solis
Daniel Solis
Daniel Solis

Escarpita noted that speeding is sometimes an issue near the 37th and Ashland intersection. However, she added that employees of the Department of Streets of Sanitation happened to be on the scene at the time of the crash told her office that Arnaud was not speeding prior to the collision. 9th District police headquarters told the ward that Arnaud claimed the morning sun was in his eyes when he struck Daniel.

"Still, [Arnaud] made a fatal mistake of not looking to his right and making sure there was no one crossing," Cardenas said. "They had the right of way. This was definitely the driver's fault."

At this location, Ashland is a wide street with four travel lanes plus turn lanes, while 37th is a two-way, two-lane street, and there is a stoplight. There are several businesses with truck traffic nearby. The south leg of the intersection, where Daniel and his father were struck, has a zebra-striped crosswalk. The other legs do not have clearly marked crosswalks.

"This is a treacherous area because it still has a lot of truck traffic," Cardenas noted. "It's still rather industrual." He added that he'd like to use traffic calming measures to discourage speeding on Ashland.

In addition to re-striping the crossings, safety could potentially be improved at this intersection by adding a pedestrian island and/or curb extensions to shorten crossing distances and discourage fast turns by drivers. After two-year-old Noah Katz was fatally struck by another turning driver while crossing four-lane Central Avenue in Portage Park last November, the city moved forward with a stalled plan to build curb extensions at the site.

Escarpita said 12th ward staffers plan to visit the Solis family tomorrow. A GoFundMe page established to help Daniel Solis’ family cover medical expenses and funeral expenses has raised over $13,000.

Lisa Ayala, whose son Manuel was a grade ahead of Daniel at Namaste said the two boys loved playing soccer together, left a message on the web page for the Solis family. “[Manuel] said ‘Mom, Daniel loved playing with the older kids, he was really good at soccer and can run fast.’ May your family find comfort in knowing you have a beautiful angel watching over now.”

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