Pedestrian deaths prompt call for change

5:56 PM, Sep 3, 2012   |    comments
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RAMSEY, Minn. -- Worries are growing about the safety of a highway intersection after two people died in a pedestrian crash Saturday night.

A Texas couple traveling through Minnesota stepped in front of traffic at Highway 10 and Sunfish Lake Boulevard, according to the Minnesota State Patrol. Troopers says John and Jean Nettelfield, ages 78 and 70, of San Antonio, were struck when they walked against the crosswalk, around 9:37 pm.

The couple had stopped in Ramsey for the night after visiting relatives in Canada. Dinner took them from their hotel across busy Highway 10, but they would never make it home. The elderly Texas couple was halfway across the crosswalk when they were struck.  

"Preliminarily it appears the pedestrians did not have the right of way, however they were in the crosswalk. Crossing, against the green, the eastbound traffic had a green light," said Lt. Tiffani Nielson.

The driver of an SUV tried to swerve to avoid the couple but couldn't. A second driver hit one of the Nettelfields' lying in the roadway. The State Patrol says both drivers stopped and did not appear to be speeding or under any influence of drugs or alcohol.

Ramsey's mayor was eating dinner at the same restaurant the couple had just left, when he heard the crash and ran to help.

 "First thing was - not again," said Mayor Bob Ramsey. "At 60 or 65 miles an hour, you don't have a chance if you are a pedestrian," he said.

The risk is a major reason why he says the city of Ramsey is pushing to move Highway 10, as part of a bridge interchange and overpass project that would separate traffic from pedestrians.

The stretch hosts 47,000 motorists a day and has now seen four deaths in the past four months.

Last May, a driver died at the same intersection after running a stop sign. In mid-August, Mayor Ramsey says a woman jumped into traffic to take her own life.

Ramsey says the bridge interchange would solve the safety issues at the intersection but has reached funding roadblocks. He vows to lobby for state and federal funding again after the Nettelfields' deaths.

"What we need to do is move Highway 10 closer to the railroad tracks. It's been that plan for 10 years, hasn't happened yet," he said.

The plan could cost up to $350 million dollars but Ramsey worries without change, time will continue to intersect with tragedy.

"We grieve for the family, and not only the family but the people who hit those people," he said. "They will live with that for the rest of their lives."

Lt. Nielson said part of the accident reconstruction will also look into whether the couple had enough time to cross both lanes of traffic in the time the crosswalk allows, which is about 30 seconds during KARE 11's visit to the scene Sunday night.

(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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