Crosswalk victim's rabbi meets with DOT

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

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The rabbi of the woman killed crossing San Jose Boulevard on Friday night met with transportation officials and spoke with a state lawmaker Tuesday about how to prevent future tragedies at the intersection by his synagogue.

Rabbi Yaakov Fisch said that Esther Ohayon's 16-year-old daughter that her mother had died was "one of the hardest things I've ever had to do."

The teenager, Orly, is recovering in the hospital from her own injuries after they were hit by a car while walking to a Yom Kippur service at Etz Chaim Synagogue.

The Florida Highway Patrol said they were struck by Michael Fortunato (pictured below in booking photo from 2009 arrest), 66, who was driving the Toyota Camry on San Jose Boulevard just before 8 p.m. Friday.

The FHP said they were investigating whether Fortunato had a green or red light at the intersection and a blood alcohol test was conducted. He was cited for driving with an expired license.

On Tuesday, Fisch was invited to speak at a Florida DOT planning meeting about the safety of that intersection.

"People sometimes don't react until there's a tragedy and unfortunately I think that is what I think happened this time," Fisch said. "I'm very encouraged by the response we're getting from our elected officials and the DOT."

Fisch says roughly 60 families from his synagogue alone cross San Jose to attend services, often with children in tow. What he'd like to see is a pedestrian overpass built in the area -- an addition he believes would save lives.

"Before it's dismissed as too expensive, if we could just have some engineers come down and look to see if that's a possibility," Fisch said.

If an overpass is not realistic, the suggest was to adjust signaling to give pedestrians using that intersection more time to cross or posting an off-duty officer in the area around the times of services at the synagogue.

"Our guys need to review it. They need to look at the technology. They need to work with the Florida Highway Patrol. Sheriff Rutherford has some opinions. We need to be all-inclusive," Goldman said.

Goldman said Frisch will be invited back to another FDOT meeting to discuss options. 

Frisch said he had also spoken to state Rep. Charles McBurney about close calls at the intersection in the past and talked with him Tuesday about Friday night's tragic accident.

McBurney did not return Channel 4's request for an interview.

Also Tuesday, Fortunato was scheduled in court on an April traffic citation for failing to stop for a red light, but he did not appear.  His attorney was in court, but did not comment on Friday's accident.

A fundraising site was set up for anyone want to make donation in the memory of Ester Ohayon and to help Orly Ohayon.

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