Two people, one a student and the other a South Orange crossing guard, were struck on South Orange Avenue within a 36-hour period last week.
The unidentified female student was struck on Sept. 25 around 9:00 a.m. as she crossed South Orange Avenue to enter through the Farinella Gate. According to eyewitnesses, the student was transported to a local hospital, though her condition was unknown. The crossing guard, identified as Frank Bolger, was struck the following afternoon on Sept. 26 and was also transported to the local hospital.
The South Orange Police Department could not confirm what Bolger’s injuries were, but Lt. Mike Corrigan of the SOPD did note that Bolger “was on the mend” and “in good spirits” though he is expected to be absent from work for at least a month.
Bolger is better known as the beloved dancing crossing guard who has greeted students every morning at the intersection for the last four years in front of Seton Hall’s main gate, helping students get from one side of the road to the other in the morning and afternoon. He told The Setonian back in 2016 that despite his dancing he takes his job very seriously.
“The only thing that began to concern me is that I would get people doing dangerous things just to film me,” Bolger said. “I don’t want to cause an accident and I’m afraid that I’ll be a nuisance to the driving public.”
Given the rapid succession of accidents, some students have begun to express concern with the overall safety of the heavily trafficked crosswalk which is utilized by students to access Turrell Manor, Seton Hall Health Services, and 525 South Orange Ave. – a classroom building.
Senior art history major and a resident of Turrell Manor Evan Robinson, who crosses at that intersection daily, noted that she has had a few close calls similar to that of the student and crossing guard, though she said until now she felt safe.
“After what happened I’m a lot more aware when I’m crossing, more so than usual,” she said, adding that there should be increased speed limit monitoring in that area given how cars “just fly down” South Orange Avenue.
Another Turrell resident and senior journalism major Payton Seda said that she, like Robinson, has been more cautious since the accidents, though she’s unsettled that since then a new crossing guard has not been sent to replace Bolger.
“There usually is someone directing traffic when I walk to my 8 a.m. on Monday and Wednesday but there hasn’t been anyone this week. And it’s not just the students walking to Seton Hall. There is an elementary school down Turrell Avenue and I see children crossing that intersection every morning to get to school,” She said, “Cars just come whipping out of Seton Hall, especially turning left and don’t really seem to pay much attention to people crossing until they are almost right in front of them.”
As to how safety could be improved for pedestrians at that intersection, Seda said that she wasn’t sure, especially considering one of the safety mechanisms in place was struck by a vehicle as well.
Andrew Cates, a senior art major, said that he thinks South Orange Village should insert pedestrian signs with flashing lights, similar to what are used at other crosswalks on South Orange Avenue to supplement to pedestrian signals and stop lights.
“Especially at night, that is something that could be helpful and just in general having a big yellow sign with lights on it is not a bad thing, especially in such a high traffic location with classrooms out there, health services and Turrell,” he said.
Cates also noted that he thinks that the pedestrian signal should always indicate when to cross rather than having to push a button first.
In response to the accidents, Seton Hall Public Safety said that they have no comment on the matter, noting, “The South Orange Police Department conducted the investigation; we were not a part of that investigation.”
Nicholas Kerr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @NickKerr99.