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'This could have been avoided': Dad of 6-year-old killed at Oldsmar intersection makes emotional plea for changes

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Posted at 8:03 AM, Apr 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-06 18:13:12-04

OLDSMAR, Fla. — It’s a nightmare Jason Sorsby can’t wake up from, and it’s one he told Oldsmar City Council about during a tearful Tuesday night meeting.

“This is the worst thing that’s ever happened to me,” said Sorsby, his voice trembling with emotion.

On Saturday, Mar. 26, his 6-year-old daughter, Lia Sorsby, was hit and killed near the intersection of S Bayview Blvd. and St. Petersburg Dr. W. Her 10-year-old sister and mother were also hit.

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Lia Sorsby, 6, was killed after she, her mother and her sister were hit by a car at an Oldsmar intersection in March.

According to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, the three were crossing the street right as the driver of a white Nissan Altima made the left turn from Bayview Blvd. onto St. Petersburg Dr. and hit them.

“It happened to my 6-year-old baby that I had to see in the coffin the other day, and this was the worst thing I’ve ever dealt with, and I’ve dealt with a lot in my life,” Sorsby told Oldsmar City Council through tears.

Investigators said the mother and her daughters were not in the crosswalk at the time. Neighbors, however, said that detail is beside the point and the reason many of them also addressed the council during the Tuesday night meeting.

RELATED: Safety improvements coming to dangerous Oldsmar intersection

They argue the intersection as a whole is dangerous and needs immediate improvement.

Amber Stephens lifted her young daughter up to the lectern to address council members.

“I’m scared that my little brother might get hit by a car, so please make the street safer,” the little girl, wearing a pink, glittery dress, told them.

The City of Oldsmar is acting and was planning an improvement project for the intersection even before the recent tragedy.

Daniel Simpson, the city’s public works director, told the tearful room that Oldsmar is using a million-dollar grant from Forward Pinellas to turn the intersection into a “complete street.” The project calls for a reduced speed, better streetscaping, and a roundabout at the intersection.

“After reviewing the crash history, really a roundabout is the best option to solve the challenges at this intersection,” said Simpson.

The fix, however, won’t happen overnight.

The funding isn’t available until the fiscal year that falls between Jul. 2023 and Jun. 2024, which means the roundabout likely won’t be complete until late 2024 or early 2025.

“What can we do now?” asked Councilman Jarrod Buchman. “We’re not waiting until 2025.”

Neighbors floated other improvement ideas like better signs, converting the intersection into a four-way stop, and reducing the speed limit to 25 miles per hour immediately.

Simpson said he will explore other options but said any improvement must go through a data-driven study before it can be implemented.

Until then, Sorsby and others will continue the push for a faster fix.

“There’s something that has to be done immediately — immediately — because it’s going to happen again,” the tearful father warned.

According to the City of Oldsmar, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is still investigating the collision.