Ballard crossing guard struck by car Monday took the job after daughter was struck there in 2001

Photo: GREG GILBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES. Used with permission.

Des de Castro and his daughter DessaMonica. Photo: GREG GILBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES. Used with permission.

Desiderio de Castro went through hell when his daughter was struck by a car in a crosswalk in front of Ballard’s Salmon Bay School in 2001. DessaMonica spent three days in intensive care with a lacerated liver and many more weeks recovering.

de Castro was not going to let that happen again, so he became a crossing guard at the location where the car struck his daughter.

“I have to do this for the kids, but also for the parents,” de Castro told the Seattle Times Wednesday. “I don’t want any other parents to feel what I did when my daughter was hit.”

de Castro was guarding the crosswalk Monday when the driver of a red Buick struck him with such force that de Castro’s head broke the windshield. He is now recovering with a small bone in his neck broken. He gets dizzy and his legs swell. But it could have been much worse.

The crosswalk, located at 18th Ave NW and NW 65th St, via Google Street View

The crosswalk, located at 18th Ave NW and NW 65th St, via Google Street View

Now, school officials and the de Castro family—Des’ wife Monette was also a crossing guard for years—are pushing the city to take bold steps to make sure no other family has to go through what theirs has. Twice.

From the Times:

Both say that stepping into the middle of a traffic lane is necessary most of the time to get vehicles to stop. And even then, vehicles in the next lane try to race through the intersection before the guard reaches the middle of the road.

But that never deterred Des de Castro from the commitment he made 12 years ago.

“He can barely walk and he wants to be back out there on the crosswalk — that’s him. He’s very committed to his job,” said his wife.

The de Castro family are safe streets heroes. But it is insane that we ask people who care about safe crosswalks to put their skin on the line in order to protect young people who are walking to school.

The city, region and state could not possibly spend too much money on Safe Routes to School projects. Here’s a goal I would like to hear from a local or state politician: Zero dangerous streets within a block of any school by the end of 2013.

Salmon Bay School safety needs to addressed without delay. But it is far from the only school in the area bordered by dangerous streets.

A middle school boy was struck while biking on the sidewalk of Island Crest Way on Mercer Island Wednesday evening near Island Crest Elementary. Luckily, his injuries were not serious, but they very easily could have been.

Mercer Island scrapped proposed safety changes for Island Crest Way in 2010. Since then, the highway-style neighborhood road has continued to leave injured children and teens in its wake. It will not stop unless Mercer Island does something to stop it.

UPDATE: Commenter John points out below that the road diet was resurrected in 2011 and completed last year. However, bike lanes were not included in the road redesign.

Making our cities safe for kids on foot and bike is one of the most basic responsibilities we have, and we’re failing.

About Tom Fucoloro

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11 Responses to Ballard crossing guard struck by car Monday took the job after daughter was struck there in 2001

  1. meanie says:

    Its only illegal to hit or kill someone with a car if its malicious. Until that changes, no one will care enough.

    • mike archambault says:

      Not true. Since passage of the Vulnerable Users bill last year, simple negligence is now illegal. Whether or not it’s enforced is a different story…

      • A says:

        Despite bickering, the point is that negligent vehicle operators will continue to not get in trouble for injuring or killing others. Until this changes, core behaviors of the sociopathic car culture will never come to an end.

  2. Best wishes to Des for a speedy recovery.

    I’m not sure if it would work or make a difference here in Seattle, but in Toronto where I went to school, if you stand at the street edge in a crosswalk and put your arm out and point across the street, cars are required to stop.

    I completely and wholeheartedly support your stated goals.

  3. Shirley says:

    The Middle School boy on Mercer Island was a student at my daughters school. Everyone was mortified to hear about it. People are now paranoid about my biking her to school.

  4. John says:

    Wait, what? Mercer Island implemented the ICW road diet from Merrimount to Island Crest Elementary this summer and now there’s a lot of room for bikers after the Merrimount intersection. An elderly pedestrian was clipped and killed in 2011 and forced the issue. Your information about the road diet is dated, though MI should be more proactive about bike safety.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      Wow, John, you’re right. I totally missed that news. I updated the story above.

      However, the redesign didn’t include bike lanes, did it?

      • John says:

        The road diet did not create demarcated bike lanes on Island Crest Way, just wide shoulders between Merrimount and Island Crest elementary. It prevents drivers from accelerating around slower traffic and blowing through the old 4 lane crosswalks and hitting pedestrians (which is still a problem north of Merrimount). Instead, bike lane markers point bicyclist into winding residential roads. South of Island Crest Elementary, nothing has changed.

        I don’t think that, in the case of this injury, that road diets would have made any difference. Kids routinely ride bikes over the crosswalks to Island Crest Park/Island Crest Elementary from the pedestrian walkway. If they don’t stop to dismount and punch the crosswalk signal, they run a higher risk of getting hit. At that location ICW itself is not mixed-use friendly as there is no shoulder at all.

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