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Henderson car parade supports girl, 9, struck in crosswalk

Updated April 12, 2021 - 6:13 am

The drivers of about 120 trucks honked and waved to Aaliyah Velasquez’s family Sunday evening as they paraded past the Henderson crosswalk near Heritage Park where the 9-year-old girl was struck by a car and severely injured March 30.

Her parents and three siblings gathered on the corner of Newport Drive and Feliz Contado Court, where the faded white crosswalk connects their neighborhood to the southern entrance of the park. Some of its paint has chipped off completely. Two diamond-shaped, yellow signs warn of the crosswalk from either side of the intersection, but there are no stop signs or safety lights for crossing pedestrians.

Aaliyah remains at University Medical Center, undergoing treatment for injuries to her brain, spinal cord, liver and right lung, as well as fractures to her pelvis and tailbone, her father Richard Velasquez said.

Together the family, including the father and Aaliyah’s mother, Carmen Velasquez, 17-year-old brother Gabriel, 12-year-old sister Danya and 10-year-old sister Jacky, who turns 11 Monday, posted signs Sunday reminding drivers to stop for pedestrians and to “slow down for Aaliyah.”

The four siblings were all crossing the street, headed home from the park March 30 when Aaliyah was hit by an SUV. Her siblings all witnessed their sister being thrown into the air and landing motionless in the street, their father said. Gabriel carried her out of the street while Danya and Jacky ran for help.

Her parents have visited Aaliyah at the hospital daily, but her three siblings have not been able to see her due to COVID-19 restrictions, their father said.

“You walk out to the crosswalk now, and there’s no skid marks to show that the guy hit his brakes — there’s nothing out there,” the father said. “And even the witnesses and my son who saw it happen said that the guy wasn’t going slow.”

When asked whether anyone had been arrested in connection with the crash, the Henderson Police Department said in an email last week that there were no updates to the case. Police said neither speed nor impairment were considered factors.

The event at Heritage Park was hosted by Sin City Tundras, an enthusiast group of Toyota Tundra truck owners. It included a charity raffle to help cover the family’s medical expenses, according to a flyer from the group, which noted Aaliyah’s father is a “proud Toyota Tundra owner.” Jared McArthur, a co-administrator, said the group had raised about $7,500 by 5 p.m. Sunday, between the raffle tickets and a GoFundMe campaign they also created.

As trucks paraded through the intersection to show their support, one man, a veteran, got out and saluted Richard before hugging him. After, a group of about 50 people walked across the street from the park to gather around the family in prayer.

Two crosswalks at the northern entrances to Heritage Park have flashing safety lights to alert oncoming traffic when pedestrians are crossing.

“We have several people in the neighborhood who have requested that the city put something in that crosswalk,” Aaliyah’s father said of the intersection where she was hit, “and the city says no because they said the place is well-lit and well-marked.”

Henderson spokeswoman Kathleen Richards said in an email Sunday that the crash is still under investigation by Henderson police and wrote that, without knowing the details of what happened, the city could not address whether any additional traffic-control measures were warranted.

“Newport Drive is properly lit, has a marked crosswalk with signage and the speed limit is appropriate for a small residential street,” Richards said in the email. “There are no current plans to implement additional traffic controls in the area.”

Councilwoman Michelle Romero, whose Ward I includes the crosswalk, said she plans to meet with the city’s traffic engineer and public works director at the crosswalk Monday.

“To me, safety has to be top priority, especially the safety of our children,” Romero said. “To my knowledge we have a low speed limit, we have lighting, we have the crosswalks in place, but I want to make sure this isn’t going to happen again, so I’ll go out there myself and take a look at it to see what, if anything else, can be done.”

Romero in a March 31 Facebook post signaled her intent to run for mayor of Henderson in 2022.

Contact Alexis Ford at aford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0335. Follow @alexisdford on Twitter.

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