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Family Of Girls Killed In Crosswalk By Cell Phone Talking Driver, Fight To Change Law

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Family Of Girls Killed In Crosswalk By Cell Phone Talking Driver, Fight To Change Law

Old 11-08-04, 11:42 AM
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Family Of Girls Killed In Crosswalk By Cell Phone Talking Driver, Fight To Change Law

http://www.local6.com/news/3898433/d...211082004&ts=H

Witnesses: Motorist Talking On Cell Phone Before Crash

POSTED: 6:37 am EST November 8, 2004
UPDATED: 6:55 am EST November 8, 2004

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The family of two girls killed in a Central Florida crosswalk by a motorist allegedly talking on a cell phone plan to picket to change Florida law concerning using a cell phone while driving, according to Local 6 News.



Anjelica Velez, 5, and her sister Victoria, 2, were killed Oct. 27 as they crossed at a red light with their mother on Goldenrod Road.

The woman driving the car, Ashley Townsend, 22, will not face charges even though witnesses said she was talking on her cell phone and speeding, Local 6 News reported.

The Velez family wants to change Florida law banning drivers from talking on cell phones without hands-free earpieces.

'If my daughters had to die to change the law then let it be," father Ivan Velez said. "But I don't want my daughters' to die in vain."

The girls' family and friends will gather at the corner of Goldenrod Tuesday morning at 10:30 a.m. to ask people to sign a petition to change the law in Florida, according to the report.


I saw the original story last week and thought it a terrible tragedy, but I wasn't going to post it..... until this revelation.

I can't believe that the driver won't be facing at least manslaughter charges.

Chris
Old 11-08-04, 11:44 AM
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I'm a bit confused by the wording of this story...were the girls crossing against the red or did the driver run the red light? If she ran the red light, they could charge her for that.
Old 11-08-04, 11:44 AM
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Talking on cell phone while driving should be a ticketable offense.....
Old 11-08-04, 11:47 AM
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Originally posted by Groucho
I'm a bit confused by the wording of this story...were the girls crossing against the red or did the driver run the red light? If she ran the red light, they could charge her for that.
No the car stopped at a red light so the kids were crossing the street. That's the way I take it at least. What I don't usderstand is this:
"The Velez family wants to change Florida law banning drivers from talking on cell phones without hands-free earpieces."

The way this is written it sounds like there is already a law in Florida banning drivers from talking on cell phones so why would the family want to change that?
Old 11-08-04, 11:50 AM
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Originally posted by Groucho
I'm a bit confused by the wording of this story...were the girls crossing against the red or did the driver run the red light? If she ran the red light, they could charge her for that.
I believe we find here the reason she is not being charged. Who expects a mother and two small children to be walking against a red light? And if they do, why should you be at fault for not stopping? Apparently, the authorities believe that the fact that she was on the phone didn't make a difference. I'm fairly convinced that the blame belongs to the mother here.
Old 11-08-04, 11:51 AM
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Originally posted by Groucho
I'm a bit confused by the wording of this story...were the girls crossing against the red or did the driver run the red light? If she ran the red light, they could charge her for that.

That's what I'm wondering too.
Old 11-08-04, 11:51 AM
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Originally posted by Mopower
No the car stopped at a red light so the kids were crossing the street. That's the way I take it at least.
I don't think so. "They crossed at a red light" indicates to me that they had the red light and crossed anyway. The girl had a green, which is why she hit them. You tend not to hit things when you're stopped.
Old 11-08-04, 11:52 AM
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I'm confused.....
Old 11-08-04, 11:53 AM
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Yea, I also don't get the story. They must have been crossing when they shouldn't have... which makes me wonder - why not charge the mother with manslaughter or something? At least child neglect for not having the good sense to wait til they were supposed to cross....
Old 11-08-04, 11:54 AM
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BTW, I've just noticed this:
The Velez family wants to change Florida law banning drivers from talking on cell phones without hands-free earpieces.
Studies have shown that hands-free earpieces do not make one a safer driver. Some suggest that it's actually safer to not use the handsfree kit.
Old 11-08-04, 11:55 AM
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Clarification:

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/...home-headlines


Tiny Victoria Velez hung on to life longer than her big sister, but only for a day.

The girls, age 2 and 5, were hit Wednesday as they entered a crosswalk with their mother, who was pushing Victoria in a stroller across busy Goldenrod Road. Anjelica, the 5-year-old kindergartner, walked a few steps ahead.

In an instant, a sport utility vehicle ran a red light, struck the girls and began a slow-motion tragedy that claimed Anjelica a few hours later and Victoria on Thursday afternoon.

While strangers placed a wooden cross, flowers and toys at an impromptu memorial at the accident scene, the Velez family huddled around their younger daughter as she died at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children & Women. Less than 24 hours earlier, Anjelica had died at the nearby Orlando Regional Medical Center.

Ivan and Yamilka Velez had lost their only children.

Ivan Velez was serene as he spoke about his daughters Thursday night.

"We've not only lost Anjelica, but Victoria also," he said in Spanish. "They were my world and our treasure."

"This is indescribable," said Esdras Toirac, the pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista Ebenezer church who accompanied the family Wednesday and Thursday at the hospital. "They are still in a terrible shock."

The girls' mother, Yamilka Velez, 28, was pushing the stroller while Anjelica walked ahead at about 3:15 p.m. Wednesday through a crosswalk when a 2003 Honda CRV driven by Ashley Townsend, 22, struck them. The mother was uninjured.

At Cheney Elementary School, a counselor arrived Thursday morning to help Anjelica's kindergarten classmates cope.

"She was just a very sweet little girl and her teacher is going to miss her tremendously," said Principal Lorrie Butler. "They talked about it, but their grieving process is different, so throughout the day they would remember her and ask about what happened."

While the Velez family, friends, church members and classmates grieved, authorities said they have yet to decide what charges, if any, Townsend may face.

Trooper Kim Miller, a Florida Highway Patrol spokeswoman, said that traffic-homicide investigators have not finished their investigation, which will be forwarded to the Orange-Osceola State Attorney's Office.

Randy Means, executive director at the State Attorney's Office, said whether a traffic offense rises to the level of a criminal act depends on the driver's intent and whether probable cause exists.

"The difference is that there has to be a great disregard for the safety and welfare for others involved in the accident before it rises to a crime," Means said. "What she was doing, how fast was she driving, the victims' position -- all that comes into play to see if there was a total disregard."

Townsend could not be reached for comment Thursday, but a friend described the young woman as saddened.

"She's shaken up," said Jenna Roth, a friend and fellow sister of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority at the University of Central Florida, of which Roth is president. "Our hearts and our prayers definitely go out to the family of the victims."

Witnesses told investigators that Townsend ran a red light while talking on her cell phone.

"We actually have no skid marks, so it's going to be very difficult" to estimate her speed, Miller said. "Preliminary results don't show an excessive amount of speed."

State records show Townsend has had two speeding tickets; one each in Leon and Seminole counties in recent years.

Near the site of the accident -- a crosswalk across six lanes of the north Goldenrod and Bates roads intersection -- three women knelt silently Thursday afternoon after arranging colorful flowers and a sign that marked the spot.

"IN LOVING MEMORIES OF ANGELICA 10, 27, 2004" read the sign, erected before Victoria's death. Relatives, friends and strangers left stuffed animals, a blond baby doll and miniature American flags.

Others who stopped to pay their respects said many parents cross there every day after picking up their children at the nearby Cheney Elementary School. They often stop for dessert at the nearby cone-shaped Twistee Treat ice-cream shop.

"Many of the parents walk through a shortcut near there. They come with their children from school and stop for ice cream," said Garrett Phillips, who works at a gas station across from the scene. "It was sad. When I came out yesterday, the stroller was on the side of the road and there was a shoe in the middle of the street."

The Goldenrod intersection has had nine crashes this year. None were fatal, the FHP said.

But Goldenrod as a whole is one of the Orange County's deadliest roads, stretching from Aloma Avenue on the north end and Orlando International Airport on the south end. Between 1998 and 2003, 22 people were killed in traffic accidents on that nine-mile road. That included five pedestrians and two bicyclists, according to federal traffic fatality data.
Old 11-08-04, 11:58 AM
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Wow, she ran a red light AND she's not being charged? Because she didn't even try to stop (hence no skid marks) so now they can't determine if she was speeding or not? NICE. Remind me that I shouldn't hit the brakes next time I'm about ready to plow someone over.
Old 11-08-04, 11:59 AM
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The answer to this is not to change the laws regarding cell phones, but to change/enforce the laws regarding vehicular homicide.

Personally, I don't get the distinction btwn no cell phones in cars whatsoever and allowing hands-free devices. You still have to dial the phone, which to me is the most dangerous part of using the cell phone in a car.
Old 11-08-04, 12:01 PM
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Cellphone or not, it's an outrage that she's not being charged if she ran the red.

Didn't Rebecca Gayheart do the same thing? What was the outcome of that?
Old 11-08-04, 12:01 PM
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Originally posted by Minor Threat
Talking on cell phone while driving should be a ticketable offense.....
Total fucking agreement.
Old 11-08-04, 12:02 PM
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OK, well that's just ludicrous. How can she possibly not be charged? Was she at least given a ticket for running the red light?
Old 11-08-04, 12:02 PM
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Thanx Minor Threat, I should have posted the original story, which gave more details.

Chris
Old 11-08-04, 12:04 PM
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Edit: I started writing this before the article making it clear that the driver actually ran a red light was posted.

When it comes to the criminal aspect of MVAs, it tends to be pretty black and white (although when you get into civil court, "partial blame" awards become a reality). I believe the family of these girls is trying to buck against this reality by suggesting that the driver contributed to the accident by yapping on her cellphone and, no doubt, speeding. Of course, unless she was speeding very excessively (to the point that witnesses could testify to that effect and be believed), that sort of becomes a moot point.

The fact of the matter is that the family is probably correct. Had she not been talking on a cellphone, the chances of her stopping in time to not kill the children would have been increased (although that is hardly a guarantee that she would have been able to).

If they want to use the deaths of their daughters as an impetus to get involved with the cellphone use while driving debate in their state, more power to them.

Last edited by jfoobar; 11-08-04 at 12:06 PM.
Old 11-08-04, 12:05 PM
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I don't know.. personally, I'm getting a little sick of people using cell phones as an excuse for bad drivers. I mean, some people are just really shitty drivers. they're NOT good at it. they will cause accidents and drive like idiots with or without a cell phone. I know plenty of people who are perfectly capable of driving while talking on a cell phone - just like I know plenty of people who can drive while changing a cd, talking to passengers, or smoking cigarettes.

but blame will continue to be placed on cell phones, rather than saying 'this accident happened because the asshole driving shouldn't have a license.'

anyone else think this way?
Old 11-08-04, 12:07 PM
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Originally posted by mkdevo
I don't know.. personally, I'm getting a little sick of people using cell phones as an excuse for bad drivers. I mean, some people are just really shitty drivers. they're NOT good at it. they will cause accidents and drive like idiots with or without a cell phone. I know plenty of people who are perfectly capable of driving while talking on a cell phone - just like I know plenty of people who can drive while changing a cd, talking to passengers, or smoking cigarettes.
I would say that you know virtually no one who, on average, drives more attentively when they are not talking on a cellphone.
Old 11-08-04, 12:08 PM
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Originally posted by mkdevo
I don't know.. personally, I'm getting a little sick of people using cell phones as an excuse for bad drivers. I mean, some people are just really shitty drivers. they're NOT good at it. they will cause accidents and drive like idiots with or without a cell phone. I know plenty of people who are perfectly capable of driving while talking on a cell phone - just like I know plenty of people who can drive while changing a cd, talking to passengers, or smoking cigarettes.

but blame will continue to be placed on cell phones, rather than saying 'this accident happened because the asshole driving shouldn't have a license.'

anyone else think this way?


I agree 100% and have mentioned this frequently. That is why I said what I said above. If whatever you are doing in your car causes you to drive negligently, only then you should be ticketed - for whatever violation you commit. A strict liablity structure for cell phone use while driving is nothing but feel-good legislation.
Old 11-08-04, 12:09 PM
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While certainly tragic, if mom and daughters were jaywalking/walking against the light, that definitely removes some responsibility from the driver. If she was speeding, of course she should be ticketed for that, and if she was breaking the cell phone law, ticketed as well; but if her light was green, then the deaths, if anything, would be accidental vehicular homicide or something.

edit: I also wrote this based on only the first article.

Last edited by tonyc3742; 11-08-04 at 12:18 PM.
Old 11-08-04, 12:10 PM
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Originally posted by JustinS
I would say that you know virtually no one who, on average, drives more attentively when they are not talking on a cellphone.
Well put!

I agree that there are other distractions out there, but talking on a cell phone is the only distraction I've seen that last lasts for several minutes at a time.
Old 11-08-04, 12:16 PM
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How can she not be charged with anything?

Wreckless driving?
Speeding?
Running a red light?
not to say manslaughter?

Old 11-08-04, 12:17 PM
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Originally posted by Groucho
Didn't Rebecca Gayheart do the same thing? What was the outcome of that?
On 13 June 2001, Gayheart struck 9-year-old Jorge Cruz Jr. as he jaywalked across the street. According to the police report, the boy was walking home from school, and crossed the street about 160 feet from the nearest crosswalk. While several cars stopped to let him go, Gayheart allegedly swerved around the traffic and into a two-way left-turn lane, striking the boy; he died the next day at Los Angeles Children's Hospital.

His parents, Jorge Cruz and Silvia Martinez, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit on 6 August 2001 against her. Gayheart paid for Cruz's hospital and funeral expenses.

She pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charge. She was sentenced to three years' probation, a one-year suspension of her license, a $2,800 fine and 750 hours of community service. She was also ordered to make a public-service announcement.

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