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‘I’m concerned,’ neighbor says about busy road where 7-year-old was killed

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PETERSBURG, Va. --  A road with very few stoplights might keep traffic moving very smoothly in Petersburg, but folks who work and live near East Washington Street are sounding the alarm after a 7-year-old boy was struck and killed last week.

And with new businesses opening, pedestrian traffic has increased and some believe cars  are traveling faster on the roadway.

Marlow Jones said pedestrians make their way across East Washington heading to new businesses. But he said many cars aren't slowing down as people cross.

"It's a safety thing as far as I'm concerned, for the community," Jones said.

East Washington Street

East Washington Street

Remembering the Child Killed

"He's an angel looking over all of us." That's how a relative chose to remember seven-year-old Tarlek Neal. He was killed last Wednesday when he ran out into the street while chasing a ball along the 2100 block of East Washington Street in Petersburg. A truck hit Neal at about 6:11 p.m. as severe storms passed through the region.

Jessie Nelder, who witnessed the accident, said the boy was with a group of friends headed home from a strip mall shopping center when he was killed.

"His ball went into the street and he ran out to get his ball and he got his by a truck," Nelder said.

While some witnesses called 911, others rushed to try and help the little boy.

Tarlek Neal

Tarlek Neal

What Happened to the Stoplights? 

City council members voted a few years ago to remove several the stoplights around the city to save money and improve traffic flow.

Treska Wilson-Smith, a city council member, said she voted against the proposal because of safety.

"Because there is no traffic light, then there's no need or desire to slow down, cars can continue to go the speed. They are traveling without giving though to having to slow down," Wilson-Smith said.

Now a few years later, with businesses and pedestrian traffic increasing Jones said something must give.

"You need some kind of traffic control devices in place if you're going to have citizens crossing the street to patronize other businesses," he said.

East Washington Street

East Washington Street

Karen LaBoo, who owns a business on East Washington, witnessed the accident and pointed out that the street is very busy.

"It's a four-lane highway, so traffic is constantly going back and forth," LaBoo said.

Commonwealth's Attorney Cassandra Conover said she will encourage city council members to look into the problem.

"Everybody needs crosswalks but I think the bigger issue is slowing the cars down, I think if cars slow down, pedestrians will be able to cross safely," she said.