News

Death on River Road

FDU Graduate 4th Pedestrian Hit in Five Years

By Melanie Perez

Editor-in-Chief

(TEANECK) – A 27-year-old FDU graduate died on Nov. 21 after being hit by a car on River Road.

Weiqi Wang, 27, of Daqing, China, was walking in the crosswalk in front of Library Circle at 6:55 a.m. when she was struck by a car driven by Carlos Poole, 49, of New Milford, Teaneck Police Chief Robert Carney said.

Wang was rushed to Hackensack University Medical Center, where she died after receiving emergency surgery, police said.

Wang was living across River Road from the campus while she was completing a post-graduate work experience, said Jim Delepo, the director of International Student Services.

Two other non-fatal accidents involving pedestrians were reported to the Teaneck Police in the same area over the past five years.  One occurred in the same crosswalk in which Wang was killed, and included two FDU students, Brijesh Tangi and Ankita Lather.  Fantin Ferrina, the driver of the vehicle, said that she did not see the two students walking in the crosswalk, according to the police report.

The other accident involved a driver and Hsin Yun Lee, a student at FDU, and occurred on Lone Pine Lane while a driver was making a right turn off River Road into the Library Circle, where there is no crosswalk, according to the police report.

Director of Public Safety David Miles said that he did not have Public Safety reports for the incidents.

“I do not have any of the reports involving accidents or pedestrians struck on River Road as the police handle them,” Miles said.

Miles said that although his department does not have jurisdiction over the crosswalk itself, that about a year ago, they did work with Matt Dikovics, the university government affairs contact, and Police Chief Carney to address some student safety concerns that required county approval.

Miles said the crosswalk was repainted in November 2015.  They also got county approval to have some new signs installed.

Currently, the speed limit on River Road is 35 mph and the speed limit for the Library Circle is 25 mph; the speed limit on Cedar Lane is also 35 mph.

There are street lamps on the side of River Road opposite FDU leading up to and beyond the crosswalk, but not directly over the crosswalk and not on the side closest to the university.

Coming from either direction on River Road – from Cedar Lane or from Route 4 East – there are three signs indicating a crosswalk: one includes warning lights and reads, “stop for pedestrians in crosswalk,” a second indicates a crosswalk 300 feet away, and another is at the crosswalk with an arrow pointing to it.

Although it was painted a year ago, the crosswalk is currently faded and blotchy in some areas.

The crosswalk is on a stretch of River Road that is, at minimum, 600 feet long, as indicated by the two “crosswalk 300 feet” signs.  In addition to the crosswalks at each end of the stretch (the corner of Cedar Lane, and the corner of Route 4 East), the one in question is the only other crosswalk that students can safely and legally use to cross River Road.

In comparison, there is, at minimum, a crosswalk on every corner on Cedar Lane with crossing lights, and non-corner crosswalks have posts in the crosswalk between opposing traffic lanes that read, “state law – stop for pedestrians in crosswalk.”  There are also street lamps on both sides of Cedar Lane and at each crosswalk.

“As the person that is responsible for the safety and security on the campus, whenever any incident occurs I always question myself to see if I have done everything that I could have to prevent this from occurring,” said Miles.

When asked how Public Safety handles pedestrian safety concerns, Miles said that they couldn’t do anything with regard to the River Road crosswalk without county approval since it is a county road and not university-owned property.

“The university and Public Safety do not have any jurisdiction for River Road and we would not be able to post a Public Safety officer to assist with persons crossing,” he said.  “That would have to be approved and sanctioned by both Teaneck Police and/or county police.”

Miles said that although his department does not have jurisdiction over the crosswalk itself, they did work with Police Chief Carney about a year ago to address some student safety concerns that required county approval.

“That is when our university government affairs person, Matt Dikovics, got involved,” he said.  “Working together with both Matt and his contacts, as well as Chief Carney, we were able to get the crosswalk in front of the Library repainted, and new reflective signs were installed, both at the crosswalk as well as 300 feet before the crosswalk, to alert drivers. There are also flashing lights well before the crosswalk to alert drivers.”

Miles said that he would continue to work with the Teaneck Police to see if there is anything else that could be done or installed with county approval.

Approximately 170 pedestrians are killed in New Jersey each year, according to the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety.  Neither Public Safety nor the Teaneck Police had statistics for injuries that have occurred in that specific crosswalk.  Miles said that Public Safety doesn’t keep those statistics since it isn’t university-controlled property.

Wang graduated with her master’s degree in hospitality management in the summer of 2015, said Deleppo, who helped organize her memorial.

He said he’s known Wang since she began her studies at FDU in 2012.  Since she is an international student, Wang would come into Deleppo’s office for advising, he said.

“When something so tragic happens it is important for the campus and community to properly mourn,” he said. “The memorial service is also a time to celebrate Weiqi’s life, and will bring many friends, family, faculty, staff and church members together to express how special she was.”

Campus Ministry and Weiqi’s church community collaborated on a memorial service for Wang, complete with vocals from her church choir, a photo slide show, prayers and speakers, Deleppo said.

“We also have planted a tree in her honor behind the International Student Services building, which people may visit during the service and place a flower,” he said.

SGA President Melanie Arokiaswami said that the memorial service has been moved to Monday, Dec. 5 in Wilson Auditorium.  The time is still to be announced.

Sookie Lu, Wang’s friend and student in her cohort, said that Wang was always helpful, smiling, and a delight to be around, a sentiment that Deleppo shared.

“My fond memories of Weiqi are her bright personality and wonderful smile – she was always happy and smiling,” he said.  “She was a very special person and friendly with everyone.”

Lu, who was a close friend of Wang’s, helped to arrange for Wang’s family to come for Wang’s memorial and to pick up her body.

“I am only helping Weiqi’s family running errands, such as finding lawyers, printing pictures, and passing messages between our school and her family,” Lu said.  “Her family is staying at Weiqi’s priest house – the priest family is very nice, welcoming and caring.”

She said that she hopes Wang left without pain and is some place peaceful.

“I hope she is doing something that she loves, and she knows that we will always miss her and love her forever and ever,” Lu said.

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