Community mourns mom killed in crosswalk

Mom, daughter hit crossing San Jose Boulevard on way to Yom Kippur services

Esther and Orly Ohayon
Esther and Orly Ohayon

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jewish community continues to mourn the loss of a pre-school teacher who was struck by a car and killed crossing San Jose Boulevard on Friday night.

Esther Ohayon, 57, was crossing with her 16-year-old daughter, Orly, on their way to attend Yom Kippur services at the Etz Chaim Synagogue.  Orly was also hit and hospitalized at UF Health in critical, but stable condition.

The Florida Highway Patrol said the driver, Michael Fortunato, tried to avoid hitting them, but couldn't stop in time.

Sunday, friends told Channel 4 that Esther's body will be flown to Israel for the burial that is likely to take place on Tuesday.

A small bouquet of flowers sits near the crosswalk at San Jose boulevard and Hayley Road.

A woman who lives nearby said the crosswalk is dangerous.

"I was shocked to know that it was somebody we knew that that had happened to. I wasn't totally surprised because there is a lot of pedestrian traffic on a really busy road."

San Jose Boulevard has been a major concern for those who have been living in the area for years.

Neighbors like Julie Sears said this crash should be a wake up call to the dangers at crosswalks.

Local attorney Eric Block represented the family of a child that got hit by a car and killed at a crosswalk, also along San Jose, back in 2009.

"Of the top three dangerous cities in the United States for pedestrians where people died the most, three of them are in Florida," Block said.

Block points out what he calls "a disconnect" between traffic lights and crosswalk signals, one he says has claimed far too many lives.

"They should be congruent with one another," Block said. "They should be consistent with one another. The problem is, they're not. Whenever they're not consistent with one another, people's natural reaction is to obey the traffic light."

Channel 4 safety expert Ken Jefferson said this is a good reminder for people to be observant of how much time you have at the crosswalk.

"When it's not counting down, you really don't know how much time you have until the orange hand comes up and tells you not to cross at that particular time. Well, what do you do if you're in the middle of the intersection? Do you go back or do you continue to cross? The answer is, you run across the intersection," Jefferson said.

Esther's colleagues at the Jacksonville Jewish Center told Channel 4 she was a beloved pre-school teacher and released the following statement:

"There are no words to describe the loss of a teacher as sweet and beloved as Miss Esther, and a world where a child as kind and loving as Orly must endure such tragedy. The shock has not yet worn off and the sorrow is only beginning."