Blackstone crash survivor calling for safety measures following recent fatal accident

WOWT 6 News Live at 6:30
Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 7:11 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Saturday morning’s crash in the Blackstone District that killed 20-year-old Kaitlyn Van Essen has the community wondering what can be done to increase safety in the area.

Lindsey Cavlovic, who narrowly survived a pedestrian hit-and-run in Blackstone this summer, says something needs to change in the area so other people don’t need to experience what she went through and what Van Essen’s family is now facing.

“It completely changed the trajectory of my life and my family’s,” she says.

Although the now 25-year-old has come a long way, her recovery is still far from over. Hearing the news of Van Essen’s accident, just a few blocks from where she was hit, brought back painful memories.

“My initial reaction was just devastation and pain and agony for her family and what they’re going through.”

She also says it sparked anger.

“Then I started feeling frustrated that nothing has been done in the six months since I was hit by an SUV as well,” she says.

Blackstone’s Business Improvement District released a proposal in July that would make the Blackstone area more pedestrian-friendly.

“The lanes will narrow which has an effect of slowing traffic down and we will increase space on the sidewalk which will give pedestrians a little more access,” says Matt Oberst, the Manager of the Blackstone Business Improvement District.

“The project is underway, we’ve engaged a local engineering firm and they’re busy working on the construction plans that’s in the design phase.”

The design phase, Oberst says, is slated to be complete by this spring. The next step would then be gathering funding to make it all happen.

Realistically, it could take until the end of 2023 until there’s substantial change.

“I know the changes can’t be immediate, but we need something now. There have been two people that have been hit in Blackstone in six months,” Cavlovic says. “I don’t know how many young people it will take getting hit by cars in Blackstone for them to want to make a change.”

Councilmember Danny Begley, whose district includes Blackstone, tells 6 News he pledges to use his seat to see if a temporary fix can be placed until bigger changes happen.

“We have a safety issue here now and that’s what I’m going to keep pushing from the city council seat that I sit on, working with the mayor’s office, public works, and everyone else to see what the answers are to help with the safety of pedestrians in this district.”

Begley says it’s not entirely up to him or city council, however.

“It’s up to public works, they’re the safety experts in the city, Councilman Danny Begley isn’t, but, I’m going to ask them to help everybody be clear on what can be done to make this safer,” he adds.

Cavlovic is hoping even simple measures, much like the changes that were made to the intersection of 2nd and Washington in Papillion, where 10-year-old Abby Whitford was killed in 2019 can be made.

“They put a safety measure in right away, they’re working to put in stoplights but they put a temporary fix in and I’m just frustrated that nothing has been done because it’s been myself, I know a man who got hit a year before me, and now Kaitlyn. Three young people’s lives completely changed and nothing is done about it.”

Cavlovic says she will continue to use her story and experience to help enact change, and that she will be a voice for Kaitlyn Van Essen, who no longer has one.

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