Lack of Sidewalk Questioned In Deaths of Two Pedestrians

By Hamil R. Harris
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 14, 2008

The stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue just southeast of Silver Hill Road has brought tragedy before.

Three fatal pedestrian accidents have occurred along that section in the District Heights area this year, Prince George's County police said, and an accident Tuesday was the latest. That day, Kelay Smith, 26, and her sister Krystal Fletcher, 22, were on their way home from Fletcher's appointment with a doctor.

The sisters, who lived together in Forestville, took the bus, as they often did. Fletcher made it home. Smith, who was five months pregnant and had a 2-year-old daughter, did not.

As the sisters walked from the bus stop, a car veered onto the shoulder in the 5700 block of Pennsylvania Avenue and struck Smith and pedestrian Derrick R. "Mooky" Jones, police said. Jones, 30, of Forestville, died at the scene. Smith and her unborn child died at a hospital.

The car's driver, whom police identified as Petrello Cabbagestalk, 51, of Forestville, was taken to a hospital.

As police investigated yesterday, Smith's family members and neighbors noted the dangers posed by a stretch of road without a sidewalk, often leaving pedestrians to use the shoulder.

"She meant the world to me," Fletcher said of Smith. "I was screaming. I ran and shook my sister, but she didn't move."

For their mother, Vicki Muhammad, it was yet another loss.

"I just buried my husband, and now I have to bury my daughter just because somebody didn't know how to drive down the street and didn't take into consideration people walking," Muhammad said.

Police said the victims were walking southeast, in the direction of traffic, when the car left the road for unknown reasons. It hit Smith and Jones about 2:30 p.m. and crashed into a tree, police said. Fletcher was not injured.

"There shouldn't be any pedestrians walking alongside the road," said Officer Teresa Watson, who was part of the accident reconstruction team.

But family members and residents of nearby apartments said they are forced to walk on the shoulder because security gates surrounding some of the apartment complexes cut off access to safer walking areas.

Resident Michelle Johnson, 22, said motorists seem to view walkers in the area with disdain. "Folks in the cars give you a nasty look just because you are walking," Johnson said.

Wesley G. Mitchell, deputy district engineer for the Maryland State Highway Administration, said the lack of a sidewalk and crosswalk in that stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue was a contributing factor in the accident. He said the state is trying to determine possible improvements to the road.

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