PROVO — Dozens of people took to the streets Monday night to honor a single mother of three, killed by a pickup truck in a crosswalk on University Avenue while walking to work earlier this month.
The Candle Light Walk of Silence was organized by Aaron Skabelund to raise awareness of Rosa Merino’s story and remind people of the devastating consequences often associated with distracted driving.
It was about 6:20 a.m. on Jan. 15 when Merino, 42, was hit and killed in a crosswalk at 700 N. University Ave. Police said the driver was not texting but looked down for a moment and never saw Merino in her dark clothes.
"I was just sad. I want to make sure that it didn't happen again," said Mauri Skabelund, who joined about 50 others in the Walk of Silence.
The walk began at the Utah County Courthouse at Center Street and University Avenue at 6 p.m. Walkers were silent as they traversed seven blocks along one of Provo’s busiest streets to the site of Merino’s fatal accident.
"This is something we need to pause and remember and think: how can we change our society, our community, so that this sort of thing does not happen?" Aaron Skabelund said.
Merino was from Argentina. Now her daughters — ages 16, 14 and 12 — have no family in Utah and are in state custody.
The community wants to raise money for the girls but also raise awareness about the consequences of distracted driving and remind pedestrians to be careful when crossing streets.
Last week, Provo police cracked down on distracted and texting motorists. In just two hours, officers issued four citations and three warnings.
"It's important that pedestrians are aware as they are out walking; and it's important for drivers not to be distracted, and be aware and focus on their driving so we don't have tragedies like this in the future," said David Harding, another walker.
Natalya Cordero's husband is from Mexico, so she wanted to join in the walk to show support for the Latino community. She has a 5-month-old boy.
"If it ever happened to me, my boy being alone, it would be hard,” Cordero said. “It's just important to keep the roads safe, especially when I'm out walking with him. Sometimes it's scary.”
In Merino’s case, police have referred charges of distracted driving to the city prosecutor.
As for her daughters, Wells Fargo Bank and the Fraternal Order of Police are working to raise money for them. Donations* can be made at any Wells Fargo branch under the name “The Three Merino Girls.”