EGG HARBOR CITY — Mattia Brown, owner of the Waffle Hut in the Harbor Plaza shopping center, said Thursday she tells her 16-year-old son, “Be careful crossing the pike, because no one cares.”
The previous night, a 7-year-old boy was killed and a woman was injured as they crossed the White Horse Pike and were hit by a truck, Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner said.
The woman and two young children, who were not identified, were crossing the pike Wednesday when the woman and one of the children were hit by a pickup traveling west near Buffalo Avenue, Tyner said in a news release.
The family owns a restaurant in the area, according to reports.
Police responded at 8:42 p.m. The child was pronounced dead at the scene, and the woman was transported to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, City Campus in Atlantic City, with life-threatening injuries, Tyner said.
Jorge Rodriguez, 30, of Horsham, Pennsylvania, is charged with being an unlicensed driver involved in a fatal motor vehicle crash. He was also issued a motor vehicle summons for being unlicensed, processed and released on a summons.
Howard Sefton came out of Incollingo’s Family Market in Harbor Plaza at 9 p.m. Wednesday and found the street shut down with several police cars, he said.
Sefton, owner of Captain Howard’s bait and tackle, said there were “probably over 100 people out there looking to see what happened.”
“In the end, they covered the little boy up with a pink blanket,” he said. “I will never forget the despair on the parents’ faces after losing a 7-year-old like that.”
Word spread through the city Thursday morning about the crash, with residents, business owners and employees hearing different versions of how the crash happened and the injuries sustained. They all said, however, that the pike was a treacherous road to cross, with this accident the latest in the pike’s bloody history.
From behind the counter of the Waffle Hut, Brown has a front-row view of the cars that speed through the city all day. She’s seen pedestrians get hit constantly, she said, and more often, close calls.
The only crosswalks are at Philadelphia Avenue and St. Louis Avenue, she said, which doesn’t make sense with the businesses between them and the number of people who walk as their main mode of transportation.
“We’re just adding these bodies up like it’s OK,” Brown said. “I couldn’t even imagine planning my child’s funeral because he couldn’t make it across the street.”
She said she doesn’t cross the pike by foot anymore; she’ll get in her car.
Next door at Discount City Liquors, Jeff Fernandez, 22, said he was walking to Wawa Wednesday night when he saw police had closed the pike from the Harbor Diner in the 600 block to the McDonald’s in the 900 block.
He heard a woman was walking two children across the street when there was an accident, he said, but all he saw were police cars.
The pike “can be dangerous and hazardous,” he said, adding it’s a busy road.
Stretching from Camden to Atlantic City, the pike, or U.S. Route 30, is a main artery for commuters and other traffic. The road isn’t under the purview of the city or the county, Mayor Lisa Jiampetti said, but increased police patrols in the area might help.
“I do believe that 35 mph is way too fast for that area because it’s such a narrow road,” she said. “But we’re going to work on it. We’ll come up with some kind of plan with the Police Department.”
This is the second time a young person has been struck on the pike this year, she said. A few months ago, a young man was hit on a bike near Dunkin’ Donuts but survived.
The Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Crash Investigations Unit is investigating.
Witnesses can call Egg Harbor City police at 609-965-2901 or the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office at 609-909-7800.
Staff Writer Colt Shaw contributed to this report.