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Local parents team up after sons were killed on busy Lakeland road

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Posted at 10:29 PM, Dec 29, 2021

LAKELAND, Fla — "I love you." Those were the last words Sara Smiley said to her son Antonio Smiley before he was killed.

"My son didn't have to die like that," Sara said, "My Tony was worth more. Much more than that."

The Polk County Sheriff's Office says the 36-year-old was hit and killed on 1st Street Northwest by a person driving a white "work van" on December 5. And they say they still haven't caught that driver.

"So Mr. or Ms. whoever you are and you hit my baby, please turn yourself in," said Sara.

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Antonio Smiley

As she searches for answers. Sara says the world has lost out on someone full of love, laughter, and music.

"From the day, I think he was born. He sang. He sang like no tomorrow and he was loved," she said.

And as we speak with Sara, we learn that Antonio's death is also reopening fresh wounds for another local family.

"Two months later, somebody dies on the same road. And it was like salt to a wound," said Yaica Irizarry.

Irizarry's son Einlanzer Gore was also hit and killed by a driver on 1st Street Northwest. The 19-year-old died on October 2.

"I feel that the person that took him cut him short of what his purpose was here on earth so now I'm his face and I'm his voice," said Yaica.

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Einlanzer Gore

Yaica says Einlanzer loved the bible and working out. She says he could light up a room with just one smile.

"Everybody drew to him. He didn't smile much, but when he did it just brought joy to your heart," she said.

And in the midst of their grief, both families are now also finding purpose.

Einlanzer's aunt, Viviana Irizarry, has started a petition calling on Polk County leadership to install lighting, sidewalks, and speed bumps on that road.

"Every time this is happening it can be prevented. And it hurts. It hurts more. It hurts more because it could be prevented," said Viviana

Both families say they hope another family doesn't have to feel their pain before something is done.

"We shouldn't have to be putting our children in a casket. Closing the casket. The very last time I laid eyes on my child, I tucked him in for Jesus and closed the casket and sealed it," said Sara.

When it comes to installing those safety measures on that road, ABC Action News wanted to understand what the process was, so we called the Polk County Road and Drainage department. The department's director, Jay Jarvis, says that speed bumps are out of the question right now.

That's because an ordinance only allows them to be installed on "residential roads." And right now, 1st Street Northwest is classified as a "collector road."

As far as sidewalks and lighting are concerned, there's a county sidewalk advisory committee that will have to vote on that.

We're told that the committee is planning to discuss the issue at their next meeting on January 4, 2022.

Heartland Crime Stoppers is seeking information related to Antonio Smiley's case.