Truck Driver Kills 5-Year-Old Girl In a Downtown Andover Crosswalk
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3:44 PM EDT on May 15, 2023
Last Tuesday evening, around 5 p.m., the driver of a Sysco delivery truck struck and killed a 5-year-old girl in front of her family while they were walking to an art class in the heart of downtown Andover.
On Sunday, the victim's family identified the girl as Sidney Olson, aged 5, and launched the “Sidney Mae Olson Rainbow Scholarship Fund” in her memory at her preschool, the SHED Children’s Campus in Andover.
“We’re grateful for the outpouring of love and support for our family and friends after the tragic death of our bright-eyed, 5-year-old daughter, Sidney,” her parents said in a statement. “She was known for her soft-spoken style of building bonds across groups, and memorably asked for her birthday party to be a rainbow theme because ‘it’s everyone’s favorite colors.’ In her spirit of boundless love and inclusion, we hope this fund provides opportunity to children who might not otherwise have it."
The killing occurred in a crosswalk at the intersection of Elm and Main Streets, where the two streets meet at an angle in front of the town library in the heart of Andover's downtown.
Several eyewitnesses told reporters on the scene that the family was obeying traffic laws and that they had a walk signal when the perpetrator, who has not been identified, drove the truck into the crosswalk.
Police say that the driver drove into the crosswalk from the center left-turn lane on the eastern leg of the intersection, coming from Elm Street, with the intent to continue south onto Main Street.
Glen Johnson, the Chief of Communications for the Essex County District Attorney's Office, told StreetsblogMASS that that the driver remained on the scene after the crash and won't be facing any citations or charges until police finish a detailed investigation.
In spite of eyewitness reports that her killer drove into the crosswalk while Olson and her family were legally protected by a walk signal, Johnson said that the police and the DA's office have decided not to restrain the perpetrator from operating a motor vehicle.
"There's a need for further investigation," Johnson told StreetsblogMASS. "That's just the normal protocol."
In spite of considerable foot traffic in the area, the intersection of Elm and Main Streets includes two "slip lanes" that allow drivers to make right turns onto Main Street – which is also a segment of Massachusetts Route 28 – without stopping.
Slip lanes have been discredited as an obsolete and unsafe roadway design because they encourage "easy and fast vehicle travel" at the expense of pedestrian safety, according to guidance from the Federal Highway Administration.
According to the MassDOT crash database, there had previously been 35 reported crashes at this same intersection since the start of 2018, including 7 that had resulted in at least one injury.
About a quarter-mile to the northeast, another driver struck and killed a 78-year-old pedestrian on Elm Street almost exactly one year ago, on April 27, 2022.
WalkBike Andover, a local street safety advocacy organization, has initiated a petition on change.org in which they demand new "no turn on red" signage and an exclusive pedestrian phase on the intersection's traffic signals to stop motor vehicle traffic in all directions while the intersection's walk signals are activated.
The petition alleges that the group has asked the town to make these changes previously, but that Town Manager Andrew Flanagan rejected their proposals in the interests of "minimizing driver delay."