Government Police/Fire

West Hartford to Convene Task Force on Traffic and Pedestrian Safety

West Hartford Town Hall in winter. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor and town officials have issued a statement regarding the numerous tragic motor vehicle collisions that have recently taken place.

By Ronni Newton

The West Hartford community has been reeling from a string of unrelated motor vehicle collisions over the past eight days that have taken the lives of five people and resulted in serious injuries to another.

The latest, a two-car crash on Simsbury Road at 6:49 a.m. on Christmas Day, resulted in the death of three occupants of the vehicles despite lifesaving efforts by emergency responders.

Mayor Shari Cantor said Sunday that in light of the recent tragic events, she has asked Town Manager Rick Ledwith to convene a task force on traffic and pedestrian safety in West Hartford. Details will be provided early next week, she said.

In statements Sunday evening, Cantor, Ledwith, and Police Chief Vernon Riddick also expressed their sadness and concern, and said public safety is always a top priority.

“We are deeply saddened and heartbroken by the tragic loss of life, especially during this holiday season,” Cantor said. “The families and friends of those involved in today’s incident will be in our thoughts and prayers.

“The Town Council wants actionable steps we can take to make our roads safer,” she added.

“Although the fatal motor vehicle collisions that have occurred in town over the last week are isolated incidents, any loss of life is unacceptable,” said Ledwith. “We are constantly studying, evaluating, and improving road safety, and plans are already underway to step those efforts up with the creation of a traffic and pedestrian safety task force.”

Riddick said that police do not believe there is any connection to the three fatal incidents, which happened on different roads and in different circumstances, but he did emphasize that drivers as well as pedestrians need to adhere to the laws that have been enacted to provide public safety on roads and highways.

“There are many factors that come into play involving motor vehicle collisions and especially motor vehicle and pedestrian collisions” said Riddick. “The consequences of a crash between a 4,000 pound vehicle and a human being can result in death or serious physical injury. Motor vehicle operators and pedestrians must comply with the law. Moreover, I strongly urge motor vehicle operators and pedestrians to avoid distractions such as cell phones, ear phones, etc. and to focus their attention on the road – literally, lives depend upon it.”

The Christmas morning crash was the fourth serious motor vehicle-related incident in West Hartford in the past eight days.

On Tuesday evening, at approximately 5 p.m., 89-year-old Eugenia Yurovsky of West Hartford was struck and killed in a hit and run collision near the intersection of Boulevard and Whiting Lane. Police are continuing to search for the driver who fled in what was appeared to have been a white or light-colored sedan.

On Wednesday evening, also right around 5 p.m., a man was struck by a motor vehicle on Mohegan Drive. Police announced the following day that the victim, Carlos Galarza, 60, of Bridgeport, CT, had died.

On Saturday, Dec. 17, a pedestrian was transported to a local hospital with serious injuries after being hit by a vehicle on South Main Street near Memorial Road.

On Wednesday morning, a group of 20 residents held a rally for safe streets at the site of the fatal collision the previous night.

Riddick had issued the following statement on Thursday evening, after identification of the victim in Wednesday’s pedestrian fatality was shared: “The West Hartford Police Department and town officials are very concerned regarding all motor vehicle vs pedestrian collisions that occur in our town. The three most recent pedestrian collisions that have resulted in critical injuries and tragically two fatalities, are currently under investigation; therefore, the contributing factors to the causes of the collisions have yet to be determined. The West Hartford Police Department Traffic Division and the town’s Engineering Department will evaluate the contributing factors to these accidents, and then implement corrective action measures – including directed traffic enforcement.

“In the interim, I want to remind all drivers and pedestrians, to be aware of their surroundings, obey traffic laws, and avoid distractions while traveling on our roadways,” Riddick stated.

Anyone who has information regarding any of the incidents is asked to contact West Hartford Police at 860-523-5203, or via the anonymous tip line email 860-570-8969 or by email at [email protected].

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