Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Girls hit near Middleton High came from Honduras to find better life

TAMPA — Ever since sisters Victoria and Norma Velasquez-Cabrera came to the United States from their native Honduras with their mother last year, they worked hard in pursuit of their respective dreams.

Victoria, 14, wants to become a dentist. Norma, 15, wants to travel the country, seeing big cities and places like Disney World.

The sisters were learning English. They were studying hard at Middleton High School. They were making the best of life in their new home after their mother, Victoria Velasquez, sought to escape violence in their native country.

On Wednesday, she sat waiting in Tampa General Hospital. The girls were both badly injured Tuesday when they were hit by a car on their way to school.

"I don't understand why this happened to us," said their uncle, Mauricio Gutierrez. "The girls don't deserve this."

As Victoria underwent surgery for a broken arm, Norma lay unconscious, clinging to life.

"The doctors say there is nothing else they can do," Gutierrez said. "Her brain is not responding."

The teens were walking just north of Middleton High about 7:15 a.m. Tuesday when they tried to cross in the 2500 block of Hillsborough Avenue. It was still dark, with the sun yet to break the horizon, police said. They wore dark clothing and were not in a marked crosswalk.

When they stepped into the street, a car stopped in the middle of the three lanes to let them pass, police said. Another car approached in the far lane.

The driver of the second car, 17-year-old Deja Johnson, on her way to Hillsborough High School, didn't see the girls; the dim lighting and the other car blocked her view, police said.

As the family prayed for a miracle Wednesday, they lashed out in anger at authorities who said they don't anticipate filing charges in the crash. Police said a preliminary investigation shows the driver did nothing wrong.

"It's a tragic accident," said Tampa police spokeswoman Andrea Davis.

Still, the family demanded further action to prevent similar tragedies.

"It's not a safe street." Gutierrez said. "How many more victims do we have to wait for?"

Four Middleton High students have been hit by cars in 2 ½ years, said principal Owen Young. That includes Shenika Davis, a 15-year-old who was killed in October 2011 as she, too, walked to Middleton outside a crosswalk in the darkness.

The crashes are unacceptable, Young said. So on Wednesday, every Middleton student attended a 30-minute pedestrian safety presentation.

The school invited Jason Jackman, from the University of South Florida's Center for Urban Transportation Research, to give his "Walk Wise" talk. The first group of freshmen and seniors noisily entered the school auditorium. They hushed when Young mentioned Tuesday's tragedy.

The tips seemed basic: Wear bright clothes, walk at crosswalks, be alert, look both ways — then look again.

Officials hope it makes a difference. Just one day after the two sisters were hit, Young said he saw students jaywalking across Hillsborough Avenue.

"I know you want to save time," he said, "but this is important."

Times staff writer Jessica Vander Velde contributed to this report.

Girls hit near Middleton High came from Honduras to find better life 03/19/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 11:53pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Editorial: UF shows how to preserve free speech

    Editorials

    The University of Florida was forced to navigate a treacherous terrain of constitutional concerns and public safety this week, all in a glaring public spotlight. In the end, Thursday's appearance by Richard Spencer was a success — as much as an unwelcome visit from a notorious white nationalist can be. The …

  2. Blake High grad Taylor Trensch lands lead role in 'Dear Evan Hansen' on Broadway

    Stage

    For those who saw Taylor Trensch grow up in Tampa, his rise from promising student to star is heartwarming and entirely predictable. In January, Trensch, 28, will be moving into the title role of Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway, one of the hottest tickets in theater.

    Taylor Trensch, a 2007 Blake High graduate, will play the title role in Broadway's Dear Evan Hansen. Courtesy of Frank Trensch.
  3. Editorial: When protest leads to understanding

    Editorials

    The protests against racial injustice by professional athletes across the country include examples of communities where it has not been handled well. And then there is the example set in Tampa Bay.

  4. Why it's too early to give up on the Bucs

    Bucs

    Don't panic. It's not too late for the Bucs.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) and wide receiver Mike Evans (13) celebrate after the defense recovered a fumble during the second half of an NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times 

  5. Backlog of immigration cases under Trump stymies immigrants in Florida

    Courts

    It was supposed to be a routine green card renewal for a Thai woman who has called Central Florida home for years.

    Immigration lawyers such as Gerald P. Seipp of Clearwater worry that their clients' circumstances will change with long delays in their immigration court appeals, hurting their chances of staying in the country. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]