ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The City of Albuquerque and the University of New Mexico are paying out a settlement in the wrongful death lawsuit of a man killed while using a faded crosswalk outside The Pit. The settlement also means changes to make the area safer for Lobo basketball fans.
“It feels like eternity,” Kae White said of the last three years since her husband’s death.
It sparked her call for action.
“It’s a real problem, and it needs to be fixed,” she said.
Kae is on a mission to make sure no one else has to feel her pain.
“He was a terrific human being,” she said, describing Jay. “He’s already missed by a lot of people.”
A car hit and killed the 74-year-old UNM graduate and longtime elementary school teacher as he used a crosswalk to leave a Lobo basketball game.
A police report stated Jay didn’t do anything wrong and neither did the driver who hit him. Attention turned, instead, to the faded crosswalk at Bradbury Drive SE and Avenida Cesar Chavez SE outside The Pit.
Kae sued the City and UNM for negligence, saying emails revealed they knew the crosswalk was dangerous and did nothing about it. She also called for a safety study. The City agreed, spending $21,000 to get it done.
“We want to work with every community member, whether their family was involved in a tragedy or not. We definitely want to work with them to see what improvements we can make to try to make sure that something like that doesn’t happen to anybody else,” CABQ Municipal Development spokesman Johnny Chandler said last year.
Now, KRQE has obtained the findings of the study, and the City refused to discuss them on camera.
Turns out, the study does recommend changes to make the crosswalk safer. The report suggests either removing it altogether, moving it to a different spot or making major changes to the one that is there now.
For instance, it could look like the image above. That option would change the traffic pattern for drivers to create a staggered crosswalk with barriers in the median for pedestrians, along with a light that flashes when people are crossing the six lanes of traffic.
The City said it won’t get rid of the crosswalk, but it’s evaluating the other options and hoping for funding from the legislature to help.
“I want that traffic study put into action,” Kae said.
She said, “sorry,” isn’t good enough.
“Today is Mr. White. Tomorrow might be Mr. Begay. Sorry, sorry, sorry. It ain’t working. How many lives do you have to lose before the bell rings?”
The City of Albuquerque and UNM have now settled in the wrongful death lawsuit. UNM would not say how much it will pay out. As a state entity, UNM doesn’t have to reveal how much it paid out in the settlement by law for six months. The City said it will pay a $350,000 settlement.
“It never was about the money. I don’t want the money,” Kae said.
It’s about accountability, she said.
UNM wouldn’t discuss it on camera but, as part of the settlement, the university agreed to have officers or crossing guards posted at the crosswalk an hour before, during and an hour after all Lobo basketball games because police were not out there when Jay crossed on his way home from a game in 2016.
Even with a settlement now, Kae is not done fighting in honor of her late husband.
“It’s not over for me. It’s never gonna be completely over until that thing is fixed,” she said about the crosswalk.