Oct. 13, 2003 – Five days after a truck accident forced the closing of the pedestrian walkway used daily by hundreds of Addelita Cancryn Junior High School students to cross busy Veterans Drive, police were still trying on Monday to put officers and crossing guards in place to ensure the youngsters' safety.
A welcoming banner hung from the overhead pedestrian bridge on Monday hailing the arrival of delegates to the Caribbean Tourism Organization's annual conference, taking place this week on St. Thomas. But down at the foot on either side of what's sometimes called the Altona footbridge, yellow "caution" tape ringed the spiral stairways, warning pedestrians away.
That appeared to be the only precaution taken since last Wednesday, when a dump truck container came detached and ended up wedged in the beams of the bridge overhead. (See "Dump truck body ends up wedged beneath bridge".)
Police had pledged on Wednesday to have school crossing guards stationed at the intersection Thursday morning, but by the end of school on Friday, there was still no sign of crossing guards or police to shepherd students across the highway.
Sgt. Thomas Hannah, Police Department spokesman, blamed staff shortages, but on Monday top officials were said to have redeployed personnel to cover the intersection for both the start and the end of the school day on Tuesday. Some 900 students attend Addelita Cancryn. Hannah appealed to their parents to voice their concerns to government officials over the safety of their children crossing the intersection, where a pedestrian was hit and killed by a driver in late July.
"A plan is being instituted to cover that intersection until such time as Public Works declares whether or not that footbridge is safe to traverse again," Hannah said. "Police officers are going to be there in the morning from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., and we're working on a schedule to try and redeploy police officers from a half hour before school is out in the afternoon to cover that time period from 1:45 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. That is to help safeguard the kids in that area, get them to cross the street at the proper intersection and not to run in between cars."
Motorists familiar with the intersection say that on a typical day, even without the footbridge being closed, streams of youngsters dart in and out of traffic at the end of the school day. The timing of the traffic lights at the intersection does not help the situation. Pedestrians crossing from the school grounds on the south side to the Banco Popular complex on the north side have a green light of less than a minute to traverse six lanes of traffic.
Hannah asked parents to try to discourage their youngsters from dodging traffic. "This is where parents can assist," he said, "by getting out there, trying to make it happen and by talking to the proper persons in the proper areas of government."
Public Works Commissioner Wayne Callwood said on Wednesday that the bridge would be off limits to pedestrians until engineers could check out its structural integrity. On Monday afternoon, James O'Bryan Jr., St. Thomas-Water Island administrator, said he had not heard from Public Works concerning the inspection. There was no school on Monday and Education officials were not available for comment.
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