A tragic hit and run on Tuesday afternoon that left a 13-year-old boy dead has long-time Estrella residents recalling a similar incident that occurred in the same spot 12 years prior.
Dylan Buensuceso, who was an eighth-grader at Estrella Mountain Elementary, was riding his bike home from school when police say he was struck by a white Ford Pickup truck near 182nd and San Gabriel drives.
Buensuceso died that same evening in the hospital as a result of his injuries. Police are still searching for the suspect.
The incident is eerily similar to another pedestrian-involved collision at the same intersection in 2010.
Nine-year-old JP Hassman was walking his bike across the street on his way to Estrella Mountain Elementary School when he was struck by a van and thrown 100 feet his father, Jerry Hassman, told The Independent.
JP was rushed to Barrow Neurological Institute by helicopter. Unlike the tragic case on Tuesday, JP survived his injuries.
The neurologist who treated JP told him that the helmet he was wearing when he was struck saved his life.
Hassman said his son recovered quickly from the accident, and later worked with the Goodyear Police Department’s Lids on Kids program to encourage other kids in the community to wear helmets on bikes.
“What happened yesterday is a tragedy,” Hassman said, adding that he feels blessed his son survived his own accident all those years ago.
Hassman said his family has lived in Estrella since 1997, and over the years he’s watched it grow considerably, inevitably increasing traffic on residential roadways.
“Every year…as this community grows there’s just more and more cars,” Hassman said. “It’s just that much more dangerous, is all I can say.”
He’s seen comments on Facebook that put blame on the Goodyear Police Department for the tragedy, but Hassman doesn’t think that’s the issue.
“I think they do an amazing job with traffic control and traffic safety,” he said. “These types of things boil down to personal responsibility…the person that hit this boy should have stopped.”
Hassman said he regularly sees people speeding in Estrella, even in the school zones.
Hassman’s the owner of Oasis Bagels, and he said the morning after Tuesday’s tragic hit and run, a customer purchased bagels for all the teachers at Estrella Mountain Elementary.
Hassman agreed to deliver the bagels, but when he arrived at Estrella Mountain he was horrified to find people driving recklessly less than a mile from where a child had been killed hours earlier.
“I had two cars pass me in the school zone on my way to the school…where this student was from.”
It is unknown if the driver who hit Buensuceso had been speeding.
A community in mourning
When school let out on Wednesday afternoon, 24 hours after the deadly hit and run, neighbors and students on their way home stopped by the site of the accident, now decorated with stuffed animals and flowers.
Kids as young as Buensuceso arrived at the memorial on their bikes to add to the handwritten banners filled with notes from friends, classmates and neighbors.
There is no crosswalk at 182nd and San Gabriel, or anywhere near where Buensuceso was hit, so pedestrians must cross two lanes of traffic separated by a median to get to the other side.
It’s also not a great location for biking.
Walk Score, a website that rates neighborhoods based on their walkability and bike infrastructure, gave Estrella Mountain Ranch a bike score of 31 out of 100–the website’s lowest rating tier, meaning “minimal bike infrastructure.”
When it was time to go home, the young boys on bikes who had visited Buensuceso’s memorial Wednesday afternoon cut across the same street their peer was fatally wounded a day earlier.
16-year-old Julian James had also visited the memorial Wednesday evening.
James said he witnessed Buensuceso being lifted onto a stretcher by first responders. He later learned the child was the younger brother of one of his friends.
“I was just like, ‘wow, what happened?’” James said. “We were hoping, we were praying, he was fine.”
James said his mom was in tears when they learned later that night that Buensuceso had died.
James, who has lived in the neighborhood for about five years, said that he once had a near-miss with a wrong-way driver at that same intersection when he was in elementary school.
James got his driver’s license two months ago, so he doesn’t have to worry about crossing the road on foot as much anymore. But he still worries for other kids in the neighborhood, including his young niece and nephew he used to babysit.
They’ve since moved, but he can’t help but imagine if it had been one of them who was hit.
“If someone were to do that (to them)...I wouldn’t be able to do anything,” he said.
“I would be really mad. I would be really sad too.”
The family of Buensuceso has set up a GoFundMe page to help cover funeral expenses. The fundraiser can be found here.
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