Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
Eight days after a 12-year-old girl was killed crossing the street in front of Cleveland Middle School, investigators returned to the scene of the crash.
The investigators, accompanied by a young girl, spent hours Friday afternoon re-creating the circumstances to determine whether the driver could have seen Eliza “Justine” Almuina as she ran across the crosswalk, said Gilbert Gallegos, a spokesman for the Albuquerque Police Department.
“They use a comparable vehicle and attempt to get an accurate idea of what the driver did and did not see as he approached the crosswalk,” Gallegos said.
He said in this case the owners of the other vehicle involved in the incident, a navy blue minivan, offered it to be used in the re-creation.
On March 22, Eliza and a friend were crossing Louisiana NE at Natalie, south of Montgomery, when the driver of the minivan stopped to let them pass. Police said a 76-year-old man driving the second vehicle, an SUV, didn’t see the girls and drove through the crosswalk, hitting Eliza.
The sixth-grader died several hours later at the hospital. The driver was not charged.
A preliminary police report lists “driver inattention, failed to yield right of way” and “pedestrian error” as factors contributing to the crash.
The crash has galvanized the community, and Mayor Tim Keller and City Councilors Diane Gibson and Brad Winter have taken steps to improve pedestrian safety signaling at the intersection.
On Friday, a teenage girl – an officer’s family member who is similar size and weight to Eliza – crossed the street repeatedly as the minivan and a vehicle similar to the SUV approached.
Gallegos said re-enactments such as this are not common but officers do them “on occasion to go above and beyond the initial investigation.”
He said he would not speculate on the outcome of the investigation and whether the driver could face charges after all.