The parents of 6-year-old Sioreli Torres Zamora, an East Palo Alto girl killed in a crosswalk while walking to school on Sept. 28, have filed a lawsuit against the City of East Palo Alto and the driver, Fern Alisha White-Parker.
The complaint alleges that Sioreli's mother, Guadalupe Zamora Medina, suffered negligent infliction of emotional distress when she witnessed her daughter's injuries and saw the little girl dying in front of her.
Zamora Medina has continued to suffer "great physical and mental pain and suffering," and has needed medical and professional care as a result of the incident, and will continue to incur medical expenses for an indefinite period of time, according to the complaint.
The City Council voted unanimously on April 3 to reject a claim the family filed in March.
Sioreli was on her way to Green Oaks Academy with her mother and siblings on the morning of Sept. 28 when she was struck by White-Parker's vehicle. Her mother and two younger sisters were just a few steps away.
The same crosswalk at Gloria Way and Bay Road was also the scene of another serious accident six months prior to Sioreli's death. An 8-year-old boy was struck there and received injuries that put him in a body cast.
A 2010 city-commissioned pedestrian-safety report published just one year prior to Sioreli's death noted the Bay Road and Gloria Way intersection had the most vehicle-pedestrian accidents in the city -- four -- between 2005 and 2009.
Four of the city's most dangerous intersections for pedestrians are along Bay Road, according to the study by the University of California, Berkeley Institute of Transportation Studies.
White-Parker, a schoolteacher, was driving to her job at Costano Elementary School when the accident occurred. She told police at the time that she was blinded by sun glare on her windshield. The San Mateo County District Attorney's Office announced on April 30 that it would not press charges against White-Parker.
Based on a 2008 California Office of Traffic Safety report of safety rankings of California cities, East Palo Alto ranked third out of 97 California cities in the same population group for the "number of collisions involving pedestrians," with first being the worst and 97th the best.
The UC-Berkeley study suggested the city consider establishing 15 mph school zones, and include criteria for installing crosswalk enhancements, such as flashing beacons, in-roadway warning lights, or in-roadway pedestrian signs at crosswalks; and hire or identify traffic-safety officers that would be dedicated to a local school during the morning and afternoon drop-off and pick-up periods.
On Nov. 29, the East Palo Alto City Council voted not to add a stop sign at the intersection, but the council approved flashing LED signs and pavement warnings for drivers to slow down.
City Attorney Kathleen Kane was out of the office until Monday and could not be reached for comment.
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