Region 8 city working to improve pedestrian safety

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

GOSNELL, AR (KAIT) - Last Thursday night 14 year old Lakota Eldridge was fatally injured while trying to cross Highway 151 in Gosnell. City officials are working to prevent a tragic accident like this from happening again.

In Gosnell there are very few places where teens and children can go to hang out after school and in the evening. The most popular location is the Sonic located across from the old airbase.

Area Supervisor Debbie Luther says it has been a popular draw for kids since it opened.

"They come from the school, the school buildings. They come from across the street here, they come from behind the store. We have lots of walkers all the time."

Only in the past couple of years have families been allowed to move into the old base housing area. Police Chief Bobby Trump says the teens will gather in the park on the base then cross over 151 to the Sonic.

Around 8:30 last Thursday night, 14-year-old Lakota Eldridge was crossing Highway 151 alone.

Chief Trump, "Crossing from the Air Force Base going to the Sonic at a little bit of an angle. The driver was just coming off Bevell street and just didn't see her crossing the street." Trump says the driver went into the outside lane then crossed into the inside lane and hit the girl.

There is no crosswalk coming from the base side or stop lights. According to the Chief, the girl was wearing dark clothing.

Trump, "There's a street light here and a street light up here at the corner. Unfortunately it doesn't light this area up very well."

The victim may have been texting while she was crossing the street.

Trump, "According to the witnesses the young lady had her phone out and when we located the phone it was slid open to a text messaging screen."

This was the first pedestrian fatality at this intersection in 15 years but Chief Trump said he would like it to be the last. Is a stop light a possibility we asked?

"We've asked the state about that before and their traffic survey shows that there's not enough traffic coming off the base to justify a stoplight to stop on a state highway." Trump said. There are a set of blinking caution lights and a set of blinking lights over the turn lane.

But there still needs to be something done to protect the pedestrians.

Luther, "For years we've had lots of kids that walk all the time. I don't know what would fix it."

Trump is trying to get the Mayor who is part of the Airport Authority to turn the street light back on at the airport entrance over the location of the former Security Post. Trump has also  petitioned the state for a cross walk and some additional painting on a right turn lane into the airport. Trump says for the next couple of weeks there will also be stepped up enforcement on that turn lane many use it as a passing lane.

"If you get caught going through that intersection in that turn lane. You're going to get a ticket." Trump said. While we were in Gosnell we watched a couple of drivers who used the lane incorrectly get stopped by the police.

Chief Trump also has a heads-up for the kids who are out at night.

"We see a lot of kids dressed in black pants, black shirt and black jackets out walking at night and it's hard for someone to see you."

Robin Self one of the Co-Managers at Sonic stood beside Eldridge in the street making sure no one else hit the girl until help arrived. She doesn't want to do it again.

Self, "I just wanted to be there with her. Just wanted to be by her side so she would feel like somebody was there until help came."

Eldridge was airlifted to LeBonheur Children's Hospital where she later died from her injuries.

Copyright 2011 KAIT. All rights reserved.