POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The force of two mothers’ love may help bring safety to improvements to a winding road north of Lakeland.
“The last thing thing that somebody should be thinking about is whether they’re going to die or not taking a stroll down the road because there is not a sidewalk,” said Yaica Irizarry.
Irizarry’s son, 19-year-old Einlazer Cashaun Gore, had goals of working in health and wellness. He also wanted to get his commercial driver’s license.
“He was very strong-minded. He was just beautiful all the way around,” said Irizarry.
Gore has spent the past 10 months in sorrow and in prayer.
“It’s a lot to handle as a mother. You kind of yearn for that child, to protect them, to do anything for them,” said Irizarry.
Gore was taking a walk on 1st Street Northwest in Kathleen on an October morning when he was hit by a car. He did not survive.
“I don’t want anyone to go through that and, unfortunately, two months, two days after my son’s passing it happened again,” said Irizarry.
“My son had a good heart and good spirit,” said Sara Smiley.
Smiley’s son, 36-year-old Antonio Smiley, died after being hit by a car in December, also on 1st St. Northwest, roughly a mile from where Gore was hit.
According to the sheriff’s office, the driver of the white van who hit him drove off and has not been identified.
“Somebody has to say enough is enough. My biggest question – and I’ve been asking it since the beginning, how many more? How many more are we willing to sacrifice?” asked Smiley. “I never gave up on him and I can’t give up on these sidewalks.”
The two mothers have banded together in their grief to bring about change, petitioning for a sidewalk to be installed on the street where their sons died.
“Lakeland, Polk County, Florida, needs to get with the times,” said Irizarry.
In a major step this month, the Polk County Sidewalk Advisory Committee included the section of 1st Street Northwest between Central Avenue and Dove Meadow Trail on its list of recommendations for sidewalk construction in the next fiscal year.
“Unfortunately, many of the requests come as a result of some tragedy or near tragedy or accident,” said County Commissioner George Lindsey.
Commissioner Lindsey said historically, the top 10 or so recommendations from the Sidewalk Advisory Committee are approved every year.
“It’s a given that it’s been through the process. They’ve assigned a ranking and then based on the allocation, the budget appropriation for that year, they fund down as far as that list will go and then the next year they start the process over,” said Lindsey.
The commission will vote on the sidewalk projects during budget talks in September.