CLEARWATER, Fla. -- A Clearwater father is dead. His adult son is fighting for his life in the hospital following a car crash on Gulf to Bay Boulevard near Fernwood Avenue Wednesday morning.
Clearwater Police say both men, 80-year-old Ernest LeBlanc and 48-year-old Barry LeBlanc, walked across Gulf to Bay Boulevard into the path of an oncoming car.
They are the second and third pedestrians to be hit along the busy roadway this week.
On Monday, a pedestrian was rushed to the hospital after stepping in front of an oncoming car at Gulf To Bay near Lake Avenue.
The crashes are happening as Clearwater Police are in the middle of a high-visibility enforcement campaign targeting pedestrians and drivers who aren’t following the law. The patrols, paid for by FDOT, are meant to save lives but officers say their message is seemingly being ignored.
“It’s extremely frustrating,” Lieutenant Rodney Johnson explained. “Our proactive measures for pedestrian education have been over the top, yet we are still having these tragedies.”
Johnson says he sees a combination of problems: Pedestrians wearing dark clothing, not wearing lights or reflectors at night, darting across mid-block and drivers not paying enough attention to walkers and bikers.
Yet, some people who live in the area where Ernest and Barry LeBlanc were hit Wednesday say walking to a crosswalk is not feasible.
Joseph DaRocha, a retired firefighter who says he performed CPR on Ernest LeBlanc until officers could arrive, argues the crosswalks are too far apart.
“You’ve gotta walk a half mile each way at least to get to an intersection with a traffic signal and a crosswalk to cross safely,” he explained.
Johnson says they don’t expect pedestrians to always cross at a crosswalk, but they must use more caution.
“We would never expect someone to walk a mile to cross at the light then walk a mile back to their destination. The point is to cross at a 90-degree angle which is straight across and to yield to oncoming cars at all times,” he elaborated. “Whether it be common sense or the law, don’t just walk in front of a vehicle.”
Wednesday’s crash left Sandra LeBlanc devastated. Her husband of two years is fighting for his life at Bayfront Hospital. Her father-in-law lost his life at Mease Countryside Hospital.
“I loved my father-in-law very much. He would do anything for anybody,” she said with a sigh. “He was a wonderful man.”
Clearwater Police say the driver of the 1996 GMC Suburban SUV, 34-year-old Kenneth Pavelik, won’t likely face charges.
Lieutenant Johnson is working closely with FDOT to install new crosswalks along Gulf to Bay Boulevard, particularly outside of Clearwater High School, but he worries that will take years, which could put walkers who don't follow the law in danger of losing their lives.
“It’s extremely frustrating. Despite the enforcement, the warnings, the reminders and these tragedies, we’re just not getting compliance,” Johnson added.