Safety issue raised after sisters hit on way to school

Tampa, FL -- Two sisters on their way to Middleton High School were hit by a fellow student Tuesday morning as they ran across Hillsborough Avenue outside the crosswalk.

Fifteen-year-old Norma Velasquez-Cabrera was critically injured. Her 14-year-old sister, Victoria, was also hit, but her injuries were not as severe.

10 News has learned this is the ninth pedestrian-related incident since 2008, and it has neighbors asking what is it going to take to get some improvements here?

Within hours of their schoolmate being hit by a car, students from Middleton High were still crossing Hillsborough Avenue at the same dangerous spot. There is no crosswalk and no crossing guard near the Meridian Pointe apartment complex where many of the students live.

"This way is the short way," said Robert Newsome, a student about to run across the six lanes of traffic.

The accident raises, yet again, the question of safety when it comes to crossing some of Tampa's busiest roadways.

In October 2011, another Middleton student was killed crossing the same road just a block away.

On Busch Boulevard early last year, an 8-year-old girl was killed as she and her sister tried to cross six lanes of speeding traffic there to reach a BP convenience store.

A couple of months later, FDOT installed a crosswalk not far from the scene of the accident. Residents say they need another one.

"Right here," said neighbor Raymond Atkins,"need something here, because there's a lot of kids in this complex."

State records show there have been eight previous incidents along this same stretch of Hillsborough Avenue in just the past five years. Neighbors say the issue is that there is a strip mall right across the street and it's unreasonable to walk more than three blocks west, or five blocks east, to the nearest crosswalk.

Santos DeLeon, who resides in the same complex, says sometimes she'll take the extra precaution, but that it's terribly out of the way.

"To go, it's maybe 10 or 15 minutes to go to the light," she said.

Neighbors say Middleton students can be seen using a shortcut behind the same strip mall, then walking across the street to an opening in a fence. It leads to a quick path directly to the school parking lot.

"I guess it's too far of a walk for all of us," said student Bryan Lopez who suggested a crossing guard be posted in the morning.

"We just like to cross by here, and some students take the chance of crossing when other cars are coming and stuff," he said.

The Florida Department of Transportation says it will investigate this accident as matter of procedure and, given the deadly history of the intersection, decide if something needs to be done.

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