Deaths in Woodward Park lead to changes in infrastructure

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FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – New infrastructure changes are coming at the intersections near Woodward Park following several fatal accidents over the past year.

Last June, 10-year-old Angel Hernandez died in a hit-and-run accident.

“It saddens me to even go there and it’s difficult because nothing is being done, nothing is being done and if it were sooner we would still have our little angel,” Hernandez’ grandmother Irma Sigala said.

Hernandez was crossing Friant Road near Fort Washington with his family when a driver ran a red light, met Hernandez, and drove off.

“He didn’t have a chance to live his life fully and he was very caring for a very long time,” he said

Raymond Celaya, 62, was charged with negligent assault and involuntary manslaughter.

In January 2022, 61-year-old Paul Moore was killed while riding his bike in a crash near Audubon and Friand.

Melanie Spigelmyre raced across America with Moore. Although she hadn’t known him for long, she immediately felt a connection to him.

“He was always available, he loved talking to people,” Spigelmyre said. “He never knew a stranger. He was just an all-around good guy. He’s just one of the good guys who were taken too soon.”

A donation page was set up for Moore to pay for a memorial bench in his honor.

In the wake of the tragedies, Mayor Jerry Dyer and City Council members announced changes to infrastructure near the park.

Immediate changes include high-visibility crosswalks, reflective backplates on traffic lights, and new signs prohibiting drivers from turning right on red when driving east-west and turning north on Friant.

The city will also pave a parking lot on the northeast side of the park near Fort Washington and Friant.

This car park will be free and will encourage pedestrians to park inside the park rather than in the car park opposite.

“Why have we waited until now compared to years ago?” asked Farber. “I think it’s unfortunately tragedies that draw the attention of elected officials, myself included.

For cost reasons, the city is currently not considering building a pedestrian bridge or underpass.

Some of the changes are immediate, others will likely take months or years. Dyer said the city will also conduct a traffic study over the next 6 months to determine what still needs to be done.

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