Accident draws attention to dangerous crosswalk in PR
bY sARAH sMITH
Christopher Edwardson doesn’t remember much about the bike accident he had Monday noon, except hitting the pavement after being airborne.
Valerie Craig noticed people driving through the crosswalk near Burger King on Highway 34 and made a deliberate effort to stop for Chris, who was trying to cross. She noticed three other lanes of traffic stopping and waved him on.
She noticed a white van coming up quickly in the 4th, outside lane out of the corner of her eye and thought, “Oh my God he’s gonna hit him!”
Christopher, 9, had ridden his purple Raleigh bike through three lanes of traffic but was struck by the driver of the white van.
Craig, a nurse, was still shook up by the incident Thursday.
“He did not even stop!” she exclaimed about the crash at 11:30 a.m. Monday. “He wasn’t paying attention.”
Inside Burger King, Shelby Garcelon remembers seeing her half-brother Christopher flying through the air.
The 14-year-old was horrified. She quickly dialed Chris’ mother to come to Burger King in Park Rapids.
“Hurry, Chris has been hit!” she remembers screaming into the phone.
All Chris remembers was hitting his face on the pavement and little else. Craig says he was conscious and talking but Chris thought he was unconscious.
Craig called for help and jumped out of the car.
A nurse, she told everyone not to touch the boy in case he had internal injuries.
Chris’ mom, Linda Holmquist, remembers getting that call from Shelby.
“My son just got hit!” she told a guest as they rushed the three blocks to the crash scene.
The driver of the van was holding Chris’ head so that it wouldn’t move.
By this time traffic on the roadway was bumper to bumper.
Holmquist felt terrible. Her daughter, Abby Andreoff, 13, was going to accompany Chris to Burger King, but Chris assured Linda he’d ride safely.
Abby blamed herself for not accompanying her brother while Linda tried to console her that “it’s nobody’s fault. It was just an accident.”
Craig was running around coordinating the first response and feeling terrible that she had waved the boy on.
“He was legally in the crosswalk!” she exclaimed numerous times.
“I was lucky,” Chris said Thursday. “Little kids like me could have died.”
The spunky little guy raised his shirt to show off his injuries, scrapes and bruises down his left leg
Shelby was waiting for her mother, Eydie Magsam-Garcelon, to finish working.
For the family, it was déjà vu all over again.
On May 6 Shelby was biking from State Bank to the Great Northern Café, next to Burger King.
A woman ran the stop sign and hit Shelby. She’s still seeking medical treatment for the leg injury she received that day.
“I had internal bleeding in my left calf muscle,” the teen said. “Christopher is lucky to be alive.”
Shelby bikes fairly often in that area. Her best friend, Sam Olson, lives a block away.
“I don’t like biking on the main roads,” Shelby said.
Her mother tried to hide her outrage.
“People come to this town to bike,” the exasperated mother said. “It’s just not safe out here.”
Working at Burger King has allowed Eydie to see many mishaps and near-mishaps right outside the business.
She starts listing them.
A month ago a vehicle rear-ended another when the first vehicle slowed for the crosswalk.
“People come here all the time for an iced cappuccino” or a drink of pop, Eydie said.
She believes something should be done at the dangerous intersection, and said once the trestle bridge is removed o the north side, she hopes the crossing will become safer. Kids bike onto and off the trestle bridge in the summer and hit the crosswalk where Christopher was hit.
The driver that struck Chris was apparently not cited. Traffic on the far lanes cannot see the center-line crosswalk sign in the middle of the road.
Christopher landed 20 feet away from where he was struck and initially appeared unconscious.
He finally started talking, or yelling, on the gurney as he was lifted into the ambulance, wondering where he was.
For bystanders who’d feared the worst, the collective breath of relief was audible. By the time he was transported, a good-sized crowd had gathered in the Burger King parking lot.
Chris and his mom recall the driver saying he “was very, very sorry” about the crash.
He showed up at CHI St. Joseph’s Health and explained the accident to police and emergency personnel.
Linda said her son was checked over and a CT scan of his head revealed he was OK. He was released later Monday.
“I remember a black truck with suspension,” the avid video gamer recalled of the traffic situation.
But Chris said he did not dart out into traffic, mindful of what he and Linda had just discussed.
Craig is angry and said that crosswalk, and one further west near Coborn’s Grocery Store, also on Highway 34, are not getting the attention they deserve.
“He did not even attempt to slow down,” she said of the van driver, who is not being named because the Enterprise was unable to reach him for comment.
He bought Chris a new Trek bike and a helmet, which Chris did not have, left his name and phone number with Linda, and left as soon as he knew the boy was discharged and on the mend. Chris was still a bit stiff Tuesday but offered to ride the bike for a photo.
“We’re not going to sue anybody,” Linda said. “It’s nobody’s fault.”
At Burger King, Magsam-Garcelon said the city needs to install something better to stop traffic along the highway.
“If they ask me they should put those stop lights with a button,” Chris said, referring to school crossing zones.
“A lot of people would have hit him and ran,” Linda said, thankful that the van driver was so kind.
“He didn’t mean to,” the mother said.
The trestle bridge is set for demolition in the future. Magsam-Garcelon thinks that’s a good thing and will reduce traffic at the middle of the road at the site of the accident.
She posted the incident to her Facebook page and the conversation about the unsafe crossing went viral.
Shelby and friend Sam are leery of riding their bikes across the highway. Sam lives behind the former Khan’s Bar-Be-Que on the highway, so she faces the traffic often if she wants to go to Heartland Park across the highway. Shelby lives on County Road 4 and says there’s no safe way she can get to her friend’s home.
“I hate biking on the main roads,” Shelby said.
Craig, too, thinks something should be done about the traffic at both crosswalks.
“These people better start stopping for these crosswalks,” she said.
Craig, Magsam-Garcelon and the others believe someone will get killed at one of the crosswalks if nothing is done to enhance them.
Park Rapids police did not respond to three phone calls seeking more information on the crash and the crosswalk.
Chris was hoping his black, swollen eye would be healed up by the time school started. His mom assured him it would be and that the bruises dotting his left shin would be gone as well.