OCEAN CITY - A 21-year-old pedestrian died in a traffic accident Friday night, and her mourners include people she never met, but who are familiar with the dangers of crossing streets at the shore.
"Every year we sit here (watching traffic) and say, 'Oh, there's going to be an accident,'" said Tracey Bridge, whose family has for more than 10 years rented at the southwest corner of 14th Street and Central Avenue.
Casey Feldman, a college journalist and southeastern Pennsylvania native, was crossing Central at that intersection just before 5 p.m. Friday, walking to her summer job, when a vehicle hit her. She was pronounced dead five hours later.
During a slow early afternoon at Bob's Grille on the Boardwalk, Feldman's former co-workers quietly discussed the accident. Manager Russell Hendricks said he himself had nearly been struck in that intersection when riding his bicycle two weeks ago.
The intersection became a four-way stop just this year, newly stopping 14th Street traffic and extending yellow curbs farther, residents said. Awkward traffic encounters happened all Saturday afternoon, never more than a few minutes apart.
"If you sit here for five minutes, you'll see five cars run a stop sign," said Jo-Ann Singer, watching traffic from the house she has owned for 22 years.
Singer dashed out of the house Friday night and saw the aftermath of the accident. She didn't see Feldman, but she saw Anthony LoMonaco, 58, of Cape May Court House, who had been driving north on Central when his vehicle - Singer said it was a van - hit the victim.
"They were just trying to calm him down. He tried to get her out" from under the vehicle, Singer said.
There are countless intersections like it in shore towns, with steady streams of pedestrians and sightlines limited by long lines of parked cars. The first half of 2009 saw a 30 percent increase, to 86, in New Jersey pedestrian deaths over the same period last year.
Police are investigating the accident before they decide whether to file charges. Two small dots are painted in the road 20 feet north of the intersection, and about another 40 feet along are four paint markings that customarily show where a vehicle came to rest in a crash. No police officer would comment Saturday evening on the crash or the investigation.
Central Avenue's speed limit in the area is 25 mph. The nearest speed limit sign for northbound drivers is three blocks before 14th Street. The nearest stop sign on northbound Central Avenue is four blocks before.
"When we drive down here we're incredibly careful, because we assume people are going to walk in front of us," said Eileen Goldstein, renting for the first time at the northwest corner of the intersection with her husband and two elementary-school children.
Although it does not appear to have been a factor in this accident, Singer questioned why crosswalks are painted only across Central, not 14th Street.
Jo-Ann's husband, Jeff, wants a whole new traffic pattern: "We'll pay for the light."
Added their son Steven, "We don't mean to be crude, but it almost does become entertainment. I'm 23, and I can't even count how many accidents I've seen here."
Fordham University in New York City issued a statement mourning the death of Feldman, a senior and a news editor for the Fordham Observer newspaper. The paper's faculty adviser, Elizabeth Stone, said, "Casey was an exceptionally talented news reporter and editor - an inquisitive, dogged and thorough perfectionist."
Her friend and colleague Ashley Wenners-Herron, the Observer's editor in chief, noted Feldman's ability to stay in touch with valuable sources for years.
"She made you think, and she was funny. She was really funny," Wenners-Herron said.
Outside Bob's on Saturday, Hendricks said, "It was a hard day today." Feldman, whom he described as "a nice, sweet kid ... bubbly, just very pleasant," had begun working there only three weeks ago.
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