Mom of child killed in hit-and-run makes appeal for lighting, sidewalks
The mother of a 14-year-old girl who died Saturday after being struck by a hit-and-run driver has made a heart-felt plea in memory of her daughter: more sidewalks and street lights in Suncoast Estates.
Christina Gray attended the North Fort Myers Civic Association meeting on Tuesday to make her emotional appeal to the board in hope of garnering support — and resources — for a community she says has gone too long with too little.
“As I was doing CPR on my daughter and I was praying to God, I looked down the road and all I saw was black. Nothing. Not a single light,” Gray said. “When I was 15, I walked those same dark streets.
“People are telling us that people from Suncoast are scum. I’m an educated scum and I will not let my daughter be remembered like that,” she said.
Her child, Allana Staiano, was walking home with her best friend Taylor Stewart along McDaniel Drive when they were stuck by a car whose driver never stopped to help the girls.
Taylor suffered a broken arm.
The alleged driver, Courtney Gainey, 23, surrendered to authorities Tuesday. She was arrested and charged with Hit and Run (Failure to Stop/Remain at Crash involving Death) and Hit and Run (Failure to Stop/Remain at Crash involving Injury other than Serious Bodily Injury), both felonies.
Gray’s appeal came on the first anniversary of the death of Alana Tamplin, 12, who was fatally injured when she was struck by a car returning home from a bus stop on Durrance Road in the dark early morning hours. She also was walking with a friend, along a street with neither sidewalks nor adequate lighting. That incident was not a hit-and-run.
Chrissy Iwanow, who helped found Benches For Our Babes in Alana’s honor last year, was also at the meeting. Green balloons were in the meeting room in Alana’s memory.
Also present were members of the Suncoast community.
The NFMCA broke from typical protocol to give Gray whatever time she needed. She talked about the accident; shared stories about her daughter, a student at Caloosa Middle School; and re-emphasized her total frustration about how the Suncoast Estates community always seems to shorted when it comes to improvements and infrastructure.
She found she had a great deal of support from those in attendance, including Civic President Doug Dailey who said “losing two Alanas is two too many.”
“This type of accident has become all too common in recent years. We lost another Alana a year ago tonight in a similar event,” Dailey said. “This incident has led to a concern in this community which is why everyone is here tonight.”
“It’s going to take the effort of the Suncoast community, North Fort Myers, our community leaders and of our county heads and departments to say enough is enough. These people deserve better and tonight we take that first step,” Dailey said.
While there are sidewalks on Hart Road and Laurel Street, there are no streetlights, making the entire community very dark. The fact that many youths like wearing dark clothing makes the situation more hazardous.
Dailey said Gray was speaking on behalf of many Suncoast residents and that he heard her cry and that he would get some answers, though the details would not be discussed that night.
Danny Ballard said the county has plans to add streetlights to the community in next year’s budget, and said if the community speaks up loudly, that could get expedited.
Bob Etre, chairperson of the Suncoast Community Task Force, said they have brought up getting streetlights and sidewalks with the county.
He urged everyone to also take safety precautions.
“We have reached out to organizations to get flashlights and bicycle lights for the people in Suncoast and make people visible on the streets,” Etre said. “We will also talk to the teens about dressing differently and not wear black all the time so people can see them.”
Laura Ray, board member, said that the old North Fort Myers doesn’t exist anymore and that people need to do more if they want their voices heard.
“I see a lot of commitment on social media from the community, but that commitment ends behind the computer. After this meeting, everything quiets down, and that has to stop,” Ray said.