Officials look for answers in death of girl


By Sara Gaiser

Bay City News Service

East Palo Alto city officials are looking for answers in the death of a 6-year-old girl who was struck and killed in a crosswalk on Bay Road last week.

Mayor Carlos Romero said the City Council will hear a staff report at the Tuesday (Oct. 4) meeting on the death of Sioreli Torres, who was run down as she crossed Bay Road at Gloria Way on her way to school Wednesday morning, Sept. 28.

The council will consider whether changes need to be made in the area to deal with traffic conditions, based on the feedback council members receive from city staff and community members.

"We will probably get an earful, but that's what we're there for," Mr. Romero said. "I look forward to a robust discussion."

He noted that the Bay Road corridor is a priority for the city, and more than $3.5 million has been spent on improvements to the corridor over the past two and a half years. Those improvements include new crosswalks, curb cuts and a pedestrian-activated crosswalk less than 1,000 feet away from where the accident occurred, he noted.

Sioreli was killed while in a crosswalk, as her mother and sisters walked a few feet behind her. Police are still investigating the cause of the fatal accident and have not arrested or detained the driver, Alisha Whiteparker.

Acting police Capt. Jeff Liu said investigators are still actively seeking witnesses to the crash, and are urging anyone who may have seen it to contact East Palo Alto police.

Ms. Whiteparker, 49, a teacher at Costano Elementary School, is on administrative leave from her job following the accident, according to Ravenswood School District officials.

Superintendent Maria De La Vega said the East Palo Alto school district is taking up a collection at each school and has put out a call for donations to help pay for funeral services for Sioreli, who was a student at Green Oaks Academy.

The district brought in around 30 counselors to speak with students Thursday, and those who need it will receive follow-up counseling, De La Vega said.

District staff members are struggling with a great deal of grief over the death, Ms. De La Vega said.

"We're just trying to start the healing process and trying to make sure all our children feel safe," she said.

Services are expected to be held at Jones Mortuary in East Palo Alto. Donations can be sent to Zamora Funeral Expenses for Sioreli, c/o Chase Bank, 2300 Broadway St., Redwood City CA 94063, account #980072078.

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