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SUNRISE (CBSMiami) — The widow of a veteran killed while crossing a Sunrise street continues to push for a crosswalk to protect others and, she believes, would have saved her husband.
Veterans had warned someone might be killed if a crosswalk and on-demand light weren’t installed to cross the street in front of a VA clinic in Sunrise.
On October 2, 2014, someone did die.
A driver hit and killed Willie James Span, 70, as he crossed Commercial Boulevard to get to the William Bill Kling VA Clinic. The driver reportedly did not see him in the predawn light.
“I have a voice. My husband did not die in vain. There will be a resolution to this. I will see to it,” said Span’s widow, Doris, on Tuesday. She will speak to the Sunrise City Commission Tuesday night.
The county’s response to Willie Span’s death? It removed the bus stop across the street, forcing other veterans, some disabled, to walk a quarter of a mile from a bus stop at Nob Hill Road.
Sunrise, Tamarac, the VA and others had pushed for years – urging a crosswalk and push button light be installed in front of the clinic.
“It was predicted before his death, before we ever became Broward County residents, that someone would die,” Span’s widow told CBS4’s Gary Nelson.
Broward’s Director of Public Works, Tom Hutka, said various federal and state traffic rules won’t allow them to put a crosswalk in front of the VA clinic – among other reasons, Hutka said, is the crosswalk would be too close to another intersection, and there isn’t sufficient pedestrian traffic to justify it. Yet, the county had pedestrian crossing signs at the place where Span and other veterans routinely crossed, seemingly encouraging people to cross in the middle of the block.
“The pedestrian crossing signs are there. They’re still there. Someone made that decision,” Doris Span said.
On Tuesday, amid renewed media coverage of the issue, a county worker was erecting new, brighter, more reflective pedestrian crossing signs at the spot where Willie Span was killed.
His widow says it’s not enough.
“My husband’s name will not be forgotten. I want to make sure his name is not forgotten,” Doris Span said. “There will be a crosswalk put in, there will be an on-demand light. I will see to it. There will be,” she said, emphasizing “will” emphatically each time she said it.
Span took her pleas to the Sunrise City Commission Tuesday night and got a warm welcome.
“It just seems to us on the commission that the solutions proposed are beneath the dignity and respect that we owe our veterans,” said Sunrise Mayor Mike Ryan, who added that Sunrise has been trying to a get a crosswalk put in since 2010.
Jack Shifrel is the president of the Broward Veterans Coalition. He believes the best answer to let the county buses turn into the VA hospital and drop the vets off at the front of the building rather than having them cross Commercial Boulevard at all. But Shifrel says he’s been told by a county official that won’t happen.
“They have told us that it wouldn’t be safe for the buses to make a left turn because who knows what could happen? There could be an accident,” Shifrel said.
To him and Span, the entire issue is an affront to veterans.
“To me, it’s been an insult to every veteran in Broward County,” Shifrel said.
“They have served,” Span said. “They’ve done enough. They deserve this and more.”
Willie Span survived post-military substance abuse and homelessness to become a homeowner, devoted husband and inspiration to other vets. The man who was willing to risk his life in service to his country lost his life in service to his country. He was on his way to mentor other veterans when he was killed.