SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) — Monday marked the first day back to school for students at Castlemont Elementary, as their classmate was hit and killed by a car on Friday.
A growing memorial for 8-year-old Jacob Villanueva stands at the crash site on Castlemont Avenue and Driftwood Drive in San Jose.
“Please drive slowly,” read one of many signs posted by residents of the surrounding community. These are calls from neighbors living on the San Jose-Campbell border.
Beyond the improvised traffic-calming measures, there is a growing memorial to Jacob. The ninth-grader was hit and killed at the crosswalk on his way to school on Friday morning.
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Jacob was walking with his babysitter, who spoke with our media partners at Univision from his hospital bed. San Jose Police (SJPD) said she broke her leg.
Translated from Spanish, Juana Robledo told Univision about the overwhelming shock. Robledo said she believes Jacob’s death was her fault.
She described her inability to sleep at night as the tragedy continued to replay in her head.
Robledo explained that she knew that one day there would be an accident at the crosswalk. However, she never imagined it would be her and a baby.
“I think everyone feels like it could have been their child,” resident Shannon Birdsong told ABC7 News. “And your heart goes out to this family. And you want to be able to do something.”
Last Friday, Birdsong dropped off her child who also attends Castlemont. She said she ran into the roadblock, but did not realize a student had been hit until she got to school.
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On Monday, residents put up their own safety signs, cones and flags for crossing. While some drivers slowed down out of confusion, neighbors were generally grateful that people were at least slowing down.
They are asking the city of San Jose to install speed bumps, stop signs – anything to keep the many children in the community safe.
“It’s one thing to say, ‘It was such a tragedy and we’re going to make sure it doesn’t happen again,'” said Rhonda Selin, a resident of the city. “It’s another thing to do it.”
She continued, “I’m so thankful that someone came and put up these signs that said, ‘Drive like your kids live here,’ because it gets people’s attention. But here goes, how long will- they stay here?”
Jacob’s father and family were at the crash site Monday evening. ABC7 News saw Jacob’s father reading a message left for the family.
“It’s very sad,” said a resident of Geneva Walls. “And it’s very close to my house.”
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The grieving community, taking security into their own hands.
ABC7 News has contacted the San Jose Department of Transportation (DOT). Part of the city plans includes collecting traffic data to see if a stop sign is needed at that location. More immediately, crews will be on site Tuesday morning to repaint the crosswalk.
In a statement, Colin Heyne of the city’s DOT explained in part, “Our safety team is working on a description of the crash site with recommendations.”
Heyne described, hypothetically, “Once approved, it will turn into work orders for our infrastructure maintenance teams. It could be refreshed or new paint markings, changes or additions to panels, tree work or larger changes.”
He said the street is on the city’s roadway plan for next year.
“And then we’ll consider making more substantial changes. In the meantime, we’ll collect traffic data and do a study to see if we can add a stop sign there,” Heyne told ABC7 News.
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