Guard hit; Town mulls safety steps

cross_webHARRISON – 

Fatima Sahli was staffing her crossing guard post at Davis and Harrison Aves. when she saw her “best friend” get hit by a car just a block away.

Grazyna “Grace” Jurczyk, 57, was badly hurt after being struck at her crossing guard post at Davis and Hamilton St. last Tuesday morning, police said.

Jurczyk was taken to University Hospital of Medicine & Dentistry, Newark, where surgeons removed her spleen and repaired her left leg, according to police.

Police said two vehicles entered the intersection at the same time, at about 8:30 a.m., and collided, causing one of the cars to spin into the southwest corner, hit Jurczyk and then a stanchion pole on the sidewalk.

Police believe that Jurczyk was thrown in the air, possibly 20 feet, after being struck.

One witness told police that Jurczyk had just completed crossing pedestrians from the southeast corner of the Hamilton/ Davis intersection to the southwest corner and was waiting for the light to return to her corner when she was struck.

At the time of the accident, police said, a vehicle operated by Lauana Ferreira, 29, of North Arlington, was traveling west on Hamilton and a vehicle driven by Michelle Carr, 35, of Harrison, southbound on Davis, entered the intersection at the same time and collided.

‘They all claim Harrison has too many lights, Well, they need to slow down and wait the two minutes. People have to feel safe.’   – Harrison Mayor James Fife

Carr was taken to Clara Maass Medical Center, Belleville, where she was treated for injuries to her right shoulder and right leg, police said.

An investigation of the incident is continuing but, as of last week, police had issued a summons to Ferreira charging her with failing to stop for a red light.

Mayor James Fife said that Jurczyk has been serving as a crossing guard since 2007 and that she has had a sterling reputation as a dedicated employee.

Fife said he was told that, “as they were putting her in the ambulance, she told her partner, ‘I’ll see you here tomorrow.’ ’’

In view of how the accident reportedly unfolded, the mayor said he would be conferring with Police Chief Derek Kearns “to see what we can do to slow traffic down along Hamilton and Cleveland Ave. and maybe Central Ave. as well.”

The same day as the accident, earlier in the morning, Fife said his car was nearly clipped, while coming out of his driveway, by an errant motorist who, he said, ignored a stop sign on Central at Kingsland Ave.

“They all claim Harrison has too many lights,” Fife said. “Well, they need to slow down and wait the two minutes [for the light to change]. People have to feel safe.”

Among the options that he and the chief will likely explore, the mayor said, are installation of speed bumps and possibly passing an ordinance restricting vehicular traffic to 15 mph as is now done in neighboring East Newark.

Meanwhile, colleagues of the stricken Jurczyk are wishing her a speedy recovery.

“She’s a sweetheart, a nice lady, very quiet, never missed one day,” said Isabel Gonzalez, who is stationed at Hamilton and Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. “I feel so bad for her. My prayers are with her.”

Christine Lashgar, who took over the post at Hamilton and Davis for Tuesday dismissal time, said that dealing with impatient motorists is a constant challenge.

“They’re all crazy corners,” said Lashgar, who has been a crossing guard since 2002. “The problem is the town is small and everyone is in a rush. They want to beat the light – that’s what they all do. Even when the sign says, ‘No Turn on Red,’ that’s what a lot of drivers do.

“But if you want our kids to get to school safely, you have to wait.”

Ron Leir | Observer Correspondent

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc. He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter. He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based W.H.A.T. Co. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, N.Y.