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Neighbor: Changes to road made fatal accident inevitable

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Published:   |   Updated: June 20, 2014 at 12:27 PM

LAND O’ LAKES — Tom Nosworthy said it was only a matter of time before someone was hit by a car on Bahia Loop. “I begged them not to pave it,” he said.

Nosworthy lives directly across from the Cruz family. Three family members were struck by a van driven by another neighbor early Wednesday morning while they were walking to a relative’s house.

Seven year-old David Cruz was released from the hospital Thursday and his mother, Anita Pallares is recovering from surgery for multiple broken bones following the accident that killed her oldest son, 9-year-old Jorge Cruz.

The driver, 21-year-old John Ryals, told investigators he didn’t see the family even though they were walking on the correct side of the road, facing traffic. Ryals was ticketed for careless driving.

William Jackson, who lives across from the accident site, is one of many Bahia Acres residents who question Ryals’ explanation that Pallares and her boys — who were walking a dog and pulling a large blue stroller — were hidden by shadows.

They say ever since the county paved Bahia Loop in 2012, pedestrians have had to dodge cars speeding by. Several pet dogs have been hit or killed. The rural neighborhood doesn’t have sidewalks, and now some residents are calling for speed humps and other safety measures. The posted speed limit is 30 mph, but Ryals was coming out of a sharp curve, where the speed limit is 20 mph.

“There’s always people walking - and you’ve got to walk in the road or else you’ll be in someone’s yard walking in the weeds,” Jackson said.

Pasco County doesn’t require sidewalks in rural subdivisions like Bahia Acres, which is on Ehren Cutoff, south of State Road 52. In most modern subdivisions, developers are required to build sidewalks now.

Nosworthy has lived on Pangola Loop, just off Bahia, for 35 years. “You’ll see moms and kids walking like this and idiots just flying around the turn,” he said. He opposed the street paving, along with most of his neighbors - 61 percent voted against it in 2010 when the county surveyed the property owners. But Bahia Loop was considered a failing road, and commissioners voted to proceed with the project, which cost more than $500,000.

Nosworthy said he doesn’t think the neighborhood needs sidewalks, but speed humps would make it safer for pedestrians.

The boys’ father placed a wooden cross at the crash site with a photo of Jorge. The family’s pastor, the Rev. Fersan Canelas, said Pallares and her boys were devout worshippers at Iglesia de Dios fortaleza. The congregation is devastated by the young boy’s death.

“It’s such a sad story. I’ve known him since he was 3 years old,” Canelas said. “We’re trying to get donations to pay for his funeral.”

The church has started a Jorge Cruz Memorial Fund at Wells Fargo Bank. The account number is #9013753844.

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