SEATTLE – This week, the City of Seattle sped up improvements to Rainier Avenue South and the South Henderson Street intersection after a car hit two young girls on August 9.
“What happened was an incredible tragedy for the children, for the family, for the people they knew and loved,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said n a statement. “We, the city, have to stand up, take notice, and make sure we’re doing all we can to make every community safer.”
Marsha Mutisi’s daughter Munirah was walking with a friend to go swimming at the Rainier Beach Community Center when they were struck by a car. Marsha remembers getting the phone call from police officers.
“There’s screaming in the background, chaos, said Mutisi, who was born in Zimbabwe and moved to the United States about twenty years ago. "I literally took my time getting there, getting an Uber to go because I just didn’t’ know what I’d be facing."
Marsha said Munirah, 9, was in the ICU at Harborview in Seattle for three days and is still recovering from a fractured pelvis and deep head gash.
“In the hospital when she was in a lot of pain, she would say repeatedly, 'I wish this didn’t happen, I wish this didn’t happen, I wish I didn’t cross the street, I wish I didn’t get hit,'” Mutisi said.
According to a hospital official, the other girl, 10, was recently taken out of the ICU and is in satisfactory condition at Harborview Medical Center.
The Mayor and traffic engineers visited the intersection and accelerated planned improvements in time for the start of the school year.
The changes include repainted cross-walks and two new countdown pedestrian signals. The City is also in the process of adding turn restrictions, including enforcing no right turns on red.
For more information on the timetable of traffic changes, click here.
The Rainier Valley Greenways has been active in seeing these changes through.
“It’s just good to see that work is actually being done," said Phyllis Porter, co-leader of the Rainier Valley Greenways. "And this has been a priority for us since 2013. And we’ve been working all the way down this corridor to make sure incidents don’t happen like what happened two weeks ago."
Porter hopes the City will consider adding raised cross walks, automated pedestrian light signals, and to speed up Phase 2 of the Rainier Ave-Henderson Street project, which was delayed until 2019.
“Because we're waiting another year there may be no crashes, there may be 2, there may be 5, someone may die," Porter said. " Someone may not. But we know all of those things are a possibility and that's what we don't want."
Mutisi was relieved to see the City step in after her daughter was hit.
“That’s one thing I love about America," she said. "Because you know, the response to an incidence like this to where they prevent it in the future with safety measures, it’s phenomenal.”