Changes Coming to Lakewood Boulevard Intersection

By: 
Kirt Ramirez

Minor changes will be made to the Lakewood Boulevard and 23rd Street intersection, where Gabriel Alexander Garate, 7, was hit by a vehicle and died of his injuries.

In the July 26 accident, officers were dispatched to the intersection at about 5:22 p.m. regarding an injury traffic collision between a vehicle and a pedestrian. Long Beach Fire personnel arrived and pronounced the victim deceased at the scene.

“The preliminary investigation revealed a 2005 Dodge Ram pick-up truck was traveling westbound 23rd Street and making a left turn to southbound Lakewood Boulevard,” according to an LBPD press release.

“A father and juvenile were crossing Lakewood Boulevard eastbound on 23rd Street when the Dodge pick-up truck failed to yield to them in the marked south crosswalk. The father and juvenile were in the crosswalk with the right-of-way pedestrian signal when the incident occurred.”

The release further states, “The driver of the Dodge pick-up was identified by his valid California Driver’s License as James Barnes, a 57-year-old male resident of Desert Hot Springs. Barnes remained at the scene, cooperated with the investigation, and was later arrested for felony vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. Alcohol, drugs, and distracted driving were not believed to be a factor in this collision.”

Local television and newspapers reported on Gabriel’s death and mourners set up a memorial at the site.

Carl Hickman, City of Long Beach traffic engineer and acting city engineer, visited the intersection to study the situation. Through email he explained his findings to the Beachcomber:

“Here is what happens after there has been a serious collision. Typically, I get immediate notification of any serious collision that occurs in the City of Long Beach. I pay special attention to any collision that results in a fatality or serious injury. I review the details and I typically collect the actual police report that is documented at LBPD.

“During my review process, I look for details how and/or why the collision occurred, and I collect the collision history to check if there is a prevalence of certain types of issues at the location.

“In this case, the collision occurred in broad daylight at a signalized intersection that has the highest level of right of way control. The traffic signal has been installed per Statewide Engineering Standards and it currently meets all CA MUTCD requirements. The intersection has painted crosswalks, pedestrian push buttons and pedestrian indications.

“A check of the collision history over the past 10 years reveals no other documented pedestrian related collisions. I had a conversation with LBPD, and they informed me that speeding was not an issue in the subject collision.”

Hickman added the intersection had appropriate striping, signs and signal operations per statewide traffic engineering standards.

“Nevertheless, I have decided that I am going to move forward to accomplish a few tasks that will improve the level of safety that is available to all who traverse the intersection: 1. Trim bushes and branches at both quadrants on the North side of the intersection. 2. Install fresh yellow continental crosswalks on all crossings. 3. Install new centerline striping on the East and Westbound approaches. 4. Possibly install signage warning North and Southbound drivers of the presence of a school zone.”

Meanwhile, at Lakewood Boulevard and 23rd Street, a message at Gabriel’s memorial reads, “Our family wants to extend our sincere gratitude to all of the individuals who have shown us nothing but support and love. We are simply overwhelmed by how much the community has continued to support us during this difficult time.”

A viewing of Gabriel’s body took place at The Hope Chapel on August 14 and a funeral service took place the following day at the Patriots Chapel at Forest Lawn Cypress.

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