Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Public safety

Student in critical condition after being hit on Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa

TAMPA — An 18-year-old student from Gary Adult High School was critically injured after being hit by a car Wednesday afternoon while running across E Hillsborough Avenue, Tampa police said.

The accident was the second in just more than three weeks involving student pedestrians on the busy road. Last month, two sisters were struck crossing another part of E Hillsborough Avenue near Middleton High School. One of them, Norma Velasquez-Cabrera, 15, died four days after being hit.

In Wednesday's incident, William Hogan and another Gary High student were crossing E Hillsborough Avenue at N 40th Street after school, police said. From the southeast side of the intersection, they headed north across Hillsborough Avenue, according to police spokeswoman Laura McElroy.

The students crossed against the traffic light and pedestrian signal, and Hogan was a few feet outside the crosswalk when he was hit by a driver in a Toyota Camry, investigators said. The driver had a green light at the time and will not be charged, according to McElroy. Hogan, of 1708 Poinsettia Ave., was in critical condition at a local hospital Wednesday night.

Hogan is a registered juvenile sex offender, state records show. He was found delinquent in October 2011 on a charge of sexual battery on a girl in Polk County, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement records. He was charged in Polk County in February 2013 with being an unregistered sex offender. Hogan registered his Tampa address earlier this year.

Less than 2 miles from Wednesday's accident scene, Norma Velasquez-Cabrera was struck March 18 while crossing in the 2500 block of E Hillsborough Avenue with her younger sister, 14-year-old Victoria Velasquez-Cabrera. The sisters were wearing dark clothing and jaywalking before sunrise while on their way to school, police said. In 2011, 15-year-old Shenika Davis was killed as she, too, walked to Middleton.

The death of Velasquez-Cabrera sparked a flurry of activity on the part of the school district.

The principal of Middleton held two safety assemblies the day after the accident.

At the suggestion of School Board member Doretha Edgecomb, the district embarked on a public education campaign about pedestrian safety.

Superintendent MaryEllen Elia visited nearby Foster Elementary School on April 2 to speak with children and parents.

"It's important for us to start early and have children start thinking, this is the safe way to cross and this is not safe," Elia told the board earlier this month.

She also described several other efforts under way to promote pedestrian safety, including a letter that will be circulated in English and Spanish, a "walk wise" project in partnership with the University of South Florida, a sweep of Hillsborough Avenue to enlist help from businesses, and a public service announcement that will be recorded with police Chief Jane Castor and Sheriff David Gee.

"That part of Hillsborough is a serious pedestrian safety concern," Elia said.

Times staff writers Marlene Sokol and Keeley Sheehan and researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

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