BOSTON (CBS) - It didn't have to happen at Summer and Melcher Streets on September 11, 2019. Tom Ready, the head of the Fort Point Neighborhood Association, says that was apparent. "We weren't sophisticated traffic engineers, but it was simple to see that's cause for a problem," Ready said.
He's referring to the concurrent pedestrian lighting system that was in place when Warren Cheng and his girlfriend Diane Ly crossed the South Boston intersection that night. They had a walk signal, but a transportation van also had a green light at the same time. Ly was struck by the van and later died, Cheng suffered serious injuries.
A lawsuit now claims the day of the accident the city had authorized changes to the light. Previous notes indicate "make Summer (street) crossings exclusive", meaning more protection for pedestrians.
"They're all negligent, it never should have happened, it was totally preventable," said attorney Jeff Catalano.
The lawsuit names the van driver, his employer Above All Transportation, and two design and engineering firms subcontracted by the city claiming negligence. As for the van driver, Massachusetts law clearly states motorists have to yield to pedestrians. "These folks aren't jaywalking, not crossing against the signal, they were doing everything they were supposed to do," said Catalano.
Residents and workers in the area had been complaining for months about the lighting configuration. The lawsuit claims engineers were put on notice to make changes but did not follow through.
They were called to a meeting in late July, but attorney Catalano claims engineers were looking to other solutions. "They said how about we do something with the bike lane, we do something with the park bench. Essentially they were rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic," Catalano said.
Changes to the lights only came two days after the accident, which Tom Ready says was too little too late. "It's just so sad it took this long for it to occur when the neighborhood was telling the city it was an accident waiting to happen," Ready said.
The lawsuit is seeking damages "in an amount sufficient" to compensate the family of Diane Ly.
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