TAMPA — An emergency Caesarean section brought him briefly into the world. He lay in an incubator, next to his mother.
But she never got to meet her little boy. Monica Alvarez, six months' pregnant, was already dead, killed by a car as she walked down a dark Tampa street Wednesday evening. Her son lived less than an hour.
An uncle named him Angel.
"He just looked so innocent," said the uncle, Gary Walker.
The collision — described by police as a tragic accident — riled a working-class neighborhood already upset that a busy sidewalk ends and causes people to walk in a road that is only faintly lit at night.
Dozens of people walk down that road, N 43rd Street, every day, heading to stores on Hills-borough Avenue or to the bus stop. Some tread through sand and gravel on the shoulder.
Parents with strollers face more of a challenge.
Alvarez, 27, and her friend Shantia Little, 24, were pushing their baby girls in strollers down 43rd Street at 7:44 p.m. when a car struck them from behind.
Little and her 22-month-old daughter, Marquisha Wilson, were hospitalized and are expected to survive. Alvarez's 1-year-old daughter, Imani Golden, was in critical condition.
On Thursday, one woman said she foresaw a tragedy like this.
Karen Peoples, 58, stood next to a makeshift memorial on 43rd Street. She has said for months that a portion of the road is too dark and that the sidewalk's end about 50 feet north of Hillsborough is too dangerous.
"I feel very hurt," she said Thursday. "I'm in a lot of pain."
She filed a request with the city in June for a streetlight and sidewalk extension. City officials quickly responded: There were lights nearby and not enough room for a sidewalk, they said.
Sidewalks should be at least 5 feet wide under the Americans with Disabilities Act, said Steve Daignault, the city's public works and utilities administrator. The city had only about 1 1/2 feet to work with, he told the St. Petersburg Times.
"It's just not enough room," he said.
As for streetlights, Tampa doesn't have money budgeted for additional lights. It adds them only in special situations, as it did recently in areas plagued by crime.
One mother said she planned to call Tampa City Council member Frank Reddick about the dangerous stretch of road.
He already knew.
At their regular meeting Thursday, Tampa City Council members voted unanimously to ask the Public Works Department to report on Dec. 1 what it can do to put sidewalks along 43rd Street.
"That's a very, very bad situation," Reddick said.
Council member Mike Suarez said the city needs to make sure its streets are safe.
"Unfortunately, it takes things like the tragedy last night to wake people up to this kind of fact," said Suarez, who has a child at the nearby Williams Middle Magnet School.
Daignault told the Times the city will review all public works issues surrounding Wednesday's accident, but not until the police report is complete.
Department officials want to know about every factor that contributed to the collision, he said — whether that includes reflectors, lights, signs or anything else.
"It was a terrible tragedy," he said. "And we try to prevent these things as often as we can."
• • •
The driver of the 1999 Lincoln Continental that hit the group spent Thursday in a haze.
Daryl Oliver, 25, couldn't eat, couldn't sleep. Through tears, he said he wants the victims' families to know he's sorry.
Police say Oliver had his headlights on, and it doesn't appear he was traveling at an excessive speed, said Tampa police Lt. Mary O'Connor.
He immediately pulled over and called 911.
Police drew his blood as a matter of routine investigation, but said the collision appears to have been an accident.
Oliver said he didn't see the women. It was dark, and the bright lights of a Jeep passing the opposite direction made it even more difficult to pick out the figures on the road, he said.
Within seconds he heard a loud bang.
"I was telling them: 'I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I didn't see ya'll,' " he said.
Later, he wondered, "Shouldn't they have been on the sidewalk?"
He looked around and realized there wasn't one.
"It's hard," he said, sobbing. "It's just hard."
• • •
Alvarez was thrilled when she found out she would be having a boy. One girl. One boy. Perfect, she thought.
She loved children and dreamed of owning her own day care one day.
"She's a family person," said her nephew, also named Gary Walker.
Alvarez grew up in Tampa, raised with Walker by their aunt Willie Mae Martinez. She attended Hillsborough High School but didn't graduate. Her brother, the elder Walker, had been encouraging her to go to night school.
Neighbors at the Silver Oaks Apartments gathered outside Thursday and spoke of a neighbor who was friendly and funny.
She would sit in front of her apartment door as Imani played with the neighbors' children. Several said she was the first person they met when they moved into the complex.
"She was a real outgoing person," said neighbor Wayne Johnson, 28. "We're all in shock."
Times news researcher John Martin and staff writer Richard Danielson contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvander[email protected] or (813) 226-3433.