UM student Ashley Kelly died Tuesday morning after she and Andrea Cinque were hit by a car while crossing a U.S. 1 intersection Monday night. The girls, both freshmen and roommates at Stanford Residential College, were sent to the hospital following the accident at around 8:30 p.m. Kelly was airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital and passed away at 2 a.m. Cinque was treated for minor injuries and released Tuesday morning from Doctor’s Hospital.
Kelly was a student from Naples, Fla.; Cinque is from West Orange, N.J. Both were crossing the street at the intersection of U.S. 1 and Mariposa Court toward T.G.I. Friday’s when they were struck by a 1999 Ford Explorer. The driver, Kristin Arbuckle, 24, stopped immediately, and no charges have been filed in the ongoing investigation.
News of the accident and Kelly’s death spread quickly through campus on Tuesday, when students, faculty, administrators and her friends took part in a rally of remembrance at the Metro station across from the site of the accident. The rally aimed to bring to light the issue of pedestrian safety, particularly in the U.S. 1 intersections close to campus.
“These are people’s lives at stake,” Sarah Canale, junior, said. “We may not have much voting power, but that doesn’t mean that students’ safety should be ignored.”
“Hundreds of students go back and forth everyday,” Jason Baptiste, sophomore, said. “How many more students need to die before something is done?”
President Shalala issued a statement Tuesday about the accident.
“Ashley’s death is a horrific tragedy, a tremendous loss for the entire University community. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends,” Shalala said. “I have ordered an immediate safety review. The University will vigorously explore solutions to help prevent future accidents, including working with city, state, and federal officials to explore the possibility of building a pedestrian bridge across South Dixie Highway.”
A HISTORY OF ACCIDENTS
This isn’t the first time there has been a pedestrian accident with a UM student in the U.S. 1 intersections near the University.
“Since 1990, there have been three deaths in that area, not exactly in that intersection. In addition, we have had four other students seriously injured since 1990 including the one on Monday night,” Dr. Pat Whitely, vice president of Student Affairs, said. “It’s clear that a pedestrian bridge would make a huge difference.”
On Nov. 16, 1990, a freshman was killed on U.S. 1 while walking toward the Burger King formerly located across the street from the University. On Nov. 14, 1996, a junior was hit by a car at the corner of Ponce de Leon Boulevard and Stanford Drive. The most recent death occurred on Feb. 8, 1998, when a junior was struck on Ponce de Leon Boulevard.
Doug Honegan, freshman and Student Government (SG) senator, co-sponsored a bill with Senator Peter Groverman for Wednesday’s SG Senate meeting, entitled “A Bill to Recommend the Construction of an Overpass Across U.S. 1 at the Location of Mariposa Court.”
The bill, which passed unanimously, will be named the Ashley Kelly Resolution, “in memoriam of the death of Ashley Kelly in hopes that a tragedy such as hers should not be repeated for lack of action on the part of the University, its students and the greater community of Coral Gables.”
The idea of a pedestrian bridge is already under discussion.
“I think that it’s feasible but it takes a lot of coordinated efforts between the city, state and the federal level,” Dr. Whitely said. “I have no doubt that President Shalala’s leadership will get it done. We ask the students for support, which we’ve gotten.”
According to Whitely, efforts for a bridge started after the 1998 accident, but all of the agencies involved were not able to coordinate efforts and the endeavor “just did not take off in the way we needed it to.” Many other improvements have been made along the way, including petitions for crosswalks, longer traffic signals, directional signals and timers on the crosswalks. In fact, the impetus for the Ibis Ride shuttles to run on Friday and Saturday nights to Sunset Place stemmed from the safety concerns of students crossing the street to go to the movies.
“We have made progress, and I think we are really committed to getting [the bridge] done this time,” Whitely said. “We just cannot go through this again. The ultimate progress is going to be the pedestrian overpass.”
In the meantime, Henry Christensen, Director of Public Safety, noted that students should take their own safety precautions.
“It may seem like common sense, but only cross the street at a green light and pay attention to pedestrian signs,” he said. “Do not assume that you’re visible to a driver, and wear light clothing when crossing the street at night.”
The entire UM community has felt the impact of Kelly’s death.
“It’s just that Ashley had an incredible life ahead of her and it’s just so terribly sad that it was cut short,” Whitely said. “I’m hoping that we can use a horrific situation for something positive for future generations.”
Honegan said Kelly was the first friend he made in college.
“Ashley was more than an A+ student turned news story, because she realized that life was all about being happy and helping make others happy,” Honegan said.
In addition to Tuesday’s rally, students held a candlelight vigil in memory of Kelly at the Rock on Thursday evening. A shuttle service is being arranged by the University to provide students transportation from Stanford Residential College to the site of Kelly’s funeral.
Teressa Dalpe contributed to this article.
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