Community calls for changes to intersection after triple fatal accident

5:31 PM, Sep 3, 2010   |    comments
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Beverly Lett places some flowers at the scene of a deadly car crash.
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Tampa, Florida - Tampa police have identified the third victim in Thursday evening's car accident on 34th Street and East Chelsea Street. Police say Helen Cummings, 58, was ejected from the car and pronounced dead at Tampa General Hospital.

Friday morning, family and friends of Walter and Dione Givens mourn privately in the Givens' home, just three blocks away from where the couple and Cummings died Thursday evening in a car accident.

Photo Gallery: Click here for photos of the scene

Beverly Lett stops to fix some flowers she placed where the Givens' blue Buick came to a stop. Lett says she grew up in this neighborhood and stood by as rescue workers tried saving the couple and their friend.

"It was just horrifying, heartbreaking. I placed some flowers here in memory of them," says Lett.

According to police, the driver of the Dodge Charger was traveling south on 34th Street. The driver of the Buick, Walt Givens was at the stop sign on Chelsea. The two cars collided and the impact sent the Buick across the road into a grassy area, while the momentum sent the Dodge Charger about 50 feet out.

Motorists who use this road say it's a dangerous one. "Every day, this is a crazy intersection," says motorist Demetrius Jenkins.

Especially for traffic heading westbound on Chelsea Street. It's a two way stop to cross. Motorists have to pass the white line beyond the stop sign to get a clear view of southbound traffic. Motorists say the vacant building on the northwest corner blocks their view, but the view is easier heading east, the direction the Givens were driving.

"Coming eastbound is not so hard. You have an open field here (left side), see cars coming down there... move up to the line, you can see down about a block and are able to gauge traffic," explains motorist William Cordova. According to several drivers, the vacant home on the southeast corner of the intersection heading east doesn't block one's view as much as the other building across the street.

Besides limited view, motorists say speed is a problem on 34th Street where the speed limit is 30 miles per hour. Jenkins says, "A lot of speeding coming down 34th Street here." He adds, "Either a 4 way stop or a light, definitely needed at this intersection."

"We've got children go up and down this street every day to go to school. There are no speed bumps. We plan to do something about this," says Lett. She hopes something good comes out of this tragedy.

Tampa Police say there have been 11 accidents in two years at that intersection, with either minor or no injuries until Thursday evening.

Lett says she and other community members plan on organizing a petition to have the city make this intersection and 34th Street safer for residents.

Tampa's transportation manager Jean Dorzback says the intersection at 34th Street and East Chelsea Street does not make the city's Top 40 list for most dangerous intersections.

"We don't see any problem with the road design or the signage," says Dorzback. As for adding a 4-way stop or traffic light, Dorzback says the current 2-way stop is sufficient. "That intersection does not meet the criteria and it won't make the intersection any safer," says Dorzback.

The transportation manager says for a 4-way stop or traffic light, the traffic flow in both directions must have a high volume of traffic in all directions.

Isabel Mascarenas

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