Chain-reaction crash that killed toddler in South Boston leaves residents reeling
A day after a 3-year-old boy was killed when a van crashed onto the sidewalk in South Boston, distraught residents called for new safety measures at the busy intersection, often used as a shortcut to avoid highway traffic.
Since 2016, there have been 15 motor vehicle crashes on or near L and Sixth streets, the site of Wednesday’s fatal accident, according to Boston police.
Former Boston mayor Raymond L. Flynn, a lifelong resident of the neighborhood, said he regularly confronts the intersection with his grandson, who has special needs and uses a customized stroller.
“I’m almost 80 years old. Walking across the street with a baby carriage, holding a cane. People won’t stop for you,’’ Flynn said.
State Senator Nick Collins, in a post on Twitter, said he would not “rest until we have safer streets in our neighborhoods.”
“My colleagues and I have been calling on transportation officials to stop cut-throughs and slow traffic,” he wrote. “Inaction is unacceptable.”
The fatal crash happened Wednesday afternoon when a van and small sedan collided, apparently sending the van onto the sidewalk, where a nanny was pushing the toddler in a stroller. The boy’s 4-year-old sister sustained injuries that were not life-threatening. The nanny was not injured.
Authorities have not publicly identified the children or the drivers involved in the crash.
Police said neither driver showed signs of impairment. Both stayed at the scene and cooperated with investigators. Police Commissioner William B. Evans said Thursday that “speed does not appear to be a factor’’ in the crash.
Authorities asked for the public’s help in the investigation, appealing to anyone who might have taken photos or video before, during, or after the collision.
A driver who said he witnessed the crash said he had stopped at the intersection and waved another driver through. As that driver eased into the intersection, a van traveling north on L Street, toward East Broadway, crashed into the car, he said.
“I thought it was going to slow down, but it didn’t,” said the man, who asked not to be identified. “Next thing you know, it rams into her car.”
Witnesses tried to perform CPR on the unconscious boy, he said, as the woman pushing the stroller screamed in horror. A man held the injured girl.
The driver said he wished the van would have struck his car instead.
“That way the kids wouldn’t have gotten hit,” he said.
At the crash site Thursday, mourners left flowers and stuffed animals as a memorial to the boy.
“It’s affecting everybody in the community,” said Danielle Lake, who brought her 2-year-old son in a stroller to lay flowers at the site. “Parents and caregivers are out here all the time, walking with our kids. It’s just scary.”
US Representative Stephen F. Lynch, a South Boston native who represents the neighborhood, called the fatal crash “heartbreaking,” and said the neighborhood plans to hold meetings on ways to make the intersection, and others like it, safer.
“These cars that are approaching the main drag here, it’s very difficult to see,” he said. “They have to come out partway into the intersection before they can see.”
Mayor Martin J. Walsh said city officials will be looking into potential safety improvements on the road, but said his immediate concern is supporting the toddler’s grieving relatives.
“I ask everyone to please keep them in your prayers, keep them in your thoughts,” Walsh said. “This is going to be . . . the most difficult time in their life that they’ll have to ever experience, and I wish I could take their pain away.”
City transportation officials said they have been discussing safety measures, such as parking restrictions and radar speed boards. Officials will also be evaluating street lighting and taking traffic counts on L Street in the coming days.
“Safe streets have always been and will continue to be BTD’s first priority,’’ said Boston Transportation Commissioner Gina Fiandaca. “Our staff has been on site at L and East 6th streets and has determined all existing traffic safety equipment to be in good condition.”
Fiandaca said there were no cars parked on that section of L Street Wednesday because of street cleaning. That removed a barrier between the sidewalk and the road, she noted.
Nine pedestrians, including the toddler in South Boston, have been struck and killed in Boston this year, according to WalkBoston, a pedestrian advocacy group that uses news reports to track such crashes.
Wendy Landman, the group’s executive director, said people pushing strollers are “certainly are one of the groups we think about when we think of sidewalk accessibility.”
Flynn said drivers cutting down L Street should stay on the highway or take public transportation.
“This is not an unsolvable problem, but it takes aggressive enforcement,” Flynn said. “This could be the catalyst for some change. When I say change, I mean getting back to the way it was, and it’s all about quality of neighborhoods. Respect for people who live in the neighborhood. It’s not about accommodating motorists.”