Photo: Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
This is just an incredibly difficult story to take in.
It happened yesterday in Greendale, Wisconsin, a community blessed with excellent pedestrian facilities and a main street. Two young children, accompanied by their mother and aunt, walk their bikes across a street in a crosswalk. A car turns right, coming off of a stop sign, and kills the five year-old girl, then progresses on unaware of what had just occurred.
The driver was an as-yet unnamed 59 year-old driver from my suburb of Franklin. She was questioned and released; alcohol was not suspected.
How does something like this happen on a village main street, well equipped with sidewalks? Was the driver talking on her cel phone? Somehow not looking RIGHT to turn RIGHT, missing the sight of two adults, two children, and two bikes crossing?
Sadly, the partial answer may be as banal as this: Years of suburban driving in speedway-street Franklin, an environment where pedestrians are rare, made this particular driver much, much less attuned to pedestrians than she should have been, even in a pedestrian-heavy environment like downtown Greendale.
The indifferent suburban driver, conditioned by years of banked turns and streets devoid of life, meets the walkable town center.
Am I too harsh? Read the story.
Greendale — For about two hours Wednesday, two small bicycles - one pink with white tires and the other a boy's model with training wheels - lay in the grass next to an intersection where a 5-year-old girl had been struck fatally by a car while walking with her mother, brother and aunt.
As police left the scene, both bicycles were placed in the bed of a Fire Department pickup truck. Within an hour, an assortment of stuffed animals and a bouquet of white and blue balloons had taken the bicycles' place next to the intersection.
The girl, Ava Marie Zimmerman, and her mother, Tonya Zimmerman, 29, were struck by a silver Honda Civic about 10:20 a.m. at Broad St. and Northway, directly in front of Greendale's Village Hall, Police Chief Rob Dams said.
The girl died at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, according to the Milwaukee County medical examiner's office. Her mother suffered minor injuries and was taken to Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa, Dams said. The girl's brother and her aunt were not struck, Dams said.
The car's driver, a 59-year-old Franklin woman, was stopped at a stop sign on Northway while the girl and her family members walked in the crosswalk west across Broad St., Dams said.
The girl and her brother were not riding their bicycles when the incident occurred, Dams said.
The woman turned right onto Broad St., struck the girl and her mother and drove a short distance before stopping, Dams said. The driver apparently did not realize what happened and was not trying to leave the scene, he said.
Bystanders, including an off-duty nurse and an off-duty Milwaukee firefighter, performed CPR on the girl until an ambulance arrived, Dams said.
Lissa Berg, who owns a nearby pet store, said she ran to the intersection after hearing screams.
"I thought maybe there was something I could do, so I ran to where the commotion was," Berg said.
Berg said paramedics were performing CPR on the girl when she arrived at the intersection.
The girl was "lying down in the crosswalk, and her bike was lying next to her," Berg said.
A distraught woman was with the girl, Berg said.
Emergency officials initially requested that a Flight for Life helicopter be sent to the scene but decided to take the girl to the hospital by ambulance because the helicopter was delayed, Dams said. The helicopter's delay did not affect the girl's medical treatment, Dams said.
The car that stuck the girl was towed after police inspected its exterior and undercarriage. Police covered the car's license plates with pieces of brown paper bags while they examined it.
The driver was taken into custody for questioning but was released that afternoon, Dams said. She has a valid driver's license, and police do not think alcohol was a factor, Dams said.
The case will be reviewed by the Milwaukee County district attorney's office, Dams said.
The girl is the second pedestrian killed by a vehicle in Greendale since the village was formed in 1938, Dams said.