The cardboard shrine filled with teddy bears, candy and personal messages that is resting against the traffic post on Clinton and Green Avenues is a community=s way of rendering homage to a little boy who wasn=t supposed to die. Quinntaun Burns, seven years old, was hit on November 3, Election day, by an 18-wheeler truck, as he was riding his bicycle with his brother and his cousin toward the playground a block away from the intersection.
The driver, William Vega, 57, received a summons for taking a route forbidden to trucks and was not charged with the boy=s death. But on Friday the police said that the Accident Investigation Squad had started to look into the matter. Mr. Vega, an employer of V and M Trucking, had entered the residential neighborhood because he had gotten lost on his way to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The police said he did not see the child as he was turning left on Clinton Avenue.
Quinntaun spent all his life in the neighborhood: he had gone to school a block away from his aunt=s house on Clinton and Green Avenues and he was, like the other kids in the block, a child of the community. AHe knew how to cross the street@ his aunt Tracy Burns-Watson, 37, said. AQuinntaun used to go to Atlantic by himself, so it wasn=t that he didn=t know how to cross the streetCthis is a residential neighborhoodCthat truck was not supposed to be here!@
Neighborhood residents who witnessed the incident say that the eighteen-wheeler had made a turn on the East side of Clinton Avenue to let a fire truck go by. Mr. Atwell who lives on Clinton Avenue also noticed that the traffic lights on the intersection were taking an unusual amount of time to change from green to red.
Although on Wednesday the police said that there was nothing wrong with the traffic lights at the Clinton and Greene intersection where the accident occurred, Shenna Pierce, one of the people building the little shrine on Tuesday night, saw a man in a white truck come to check the lights at around 10:00 p.m. AI asked the man, >What are you doing?=@ and the man said >I=m fixing the light.=@ Mrs. Piece said.
The New York City Department of Transportation Bureau Traffic Signals received a civilian complaint call about the traffic light that Tuesday night at 7:55 p.m., a supervisor of electrical inspections for Brooklyn commented. AWe sent somebody within two hours of the call.. The controller wasn=t working and we had to repair it.@ The supervisor asked that his name not be mentioned.
Peggy Pascally , a claims handler at Welsback Electric, the private contracting company that the city called to fix the light that Tuesday night says that the last time the company had checked the light was late in September and everything was in order. Mrs. Pascally asserts that the two traffic lights were not in synch with the rest of the lights in the neighborhood, but that they were working.
Although the police have stated that the area is a residential neighborhood, V and M trucking, the company for which Mr. Vega works, is looking to prove that there are no signs that indicate that the neighborhood is not a commercial route for trucks. The president of the company who offered only his first name, Gabriel, said that this was a very sorrowful tragedy and that the driver, Mr. Vega had been a driver all his life and his record was clean.
Quinntaun did not die of head injuries. But his mother thinks that Quinntaun was riding his bicycle without his helmet on. In most cases a helmet makes all the difference. AStatistically, the majority of children involved in motor vehicle accidents die as a result of head trauma and its complications,@ said Noah Kondamudi, the chief pediatric in the emergency services at the Brooklyn Hospital Center. AWearing a helmet significantly reduces the chances of death and injuries.@
Ms. Burns-Watson, says that she would like to conduct an investigation with the people who witnessed or heard the incident from their windows or the street to find out exactly what happened. Ms. Burns= family has lived in the area since the 50=s. She is astonished at how supportive the community has been with the tragedy.
The candy and teddy bears that decorate Quinntaun=s shrine disappear during the night and children bring new stocks in the morning. They ask people in the neighborhood to sign the cardboard walls of the shrine or the color pages taped against the traffic post. They still talk about Quinntaun as if he was among them.
AWho ever heard of a seven year old having store credit?@ Joked Lorrain Warren, 16, the child=s cousin as he struggled to light a long green candle against the wind on Wednesday afternoon.
When Quinntaun=s mother, aunt, and three brothers visited the shrine one night they were greeted with flowers. A girl came up to Ms. Burns and said that her mother had some potato salad to give to her. Ms. Burns, 30, a substance abuse social worker animatedly replied, AIf I get anymore food my house is going to explode!@
AMy son must have really done his thing in his little seven years because people I don=t even remember have come to show their support.@ Mrs. Burns told the small crowd who surrounded the shrine beaming with candles. ALittle kids call me on the phone crying Ms. Kelly.. AI think about this corner, my son, and the whole thing is ugly.@ She said softly.
On their way home from Quinntaun=s shrine, Karif , 12, and Darrel, 9, cried for their brother. AThe best dancer in the family,@ Karif boasted. Their aunt Tracey said, AQuinntaun could not fathom something that big@, she said speaking of the eighteen-wheeler coming down Clinton Avenue, Ait was not the norm.@