$16.6M settlement in Hempstead crash

Mildrekia Watson, who at 5 years old was Mildrekia Watson, who at 5 years old was struck and critically injured trying to cross Fulton Street while walking home from school in Hempstead, sits at a news conference after she received a $16-million settlement Wednesday in Mineola. (June 20, 2012) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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A 10-year-old girl who lost her ability to walk and speak after she was hit by a car while crossing a busy road in Hempstead with her brother five years ago was awarded $16.6 million in a settlement with Hempstead Village on Wednesday, her lawyer said.

The lawyer for Mildrekia Watson, who was 5 when she was struck in December 2007, said he hopes the settlement will spur the village to get a second crossing guard at the intersection of Fulton and Cathedral avenues where it happened. She suffered traumatic brain injuries and multiple bone fractures, said her lawyer, Charles Gucciardo, of Mineola.

"I can't even imagine what this child's mother has gone through, and what this child is going to go through for the rest of her life," Gucciardo said at a news conference in Mineola.

The attorney for Hempstead Village released a statement saying safety is a priority.

"Due to the facts of the case and the severity of the injuries, the settlement was clearly in the best interest of all parties involved," said Debra UrbanoDiSalvo. "The safety of our community's residents, especially their children, is of paramount concern to the village. In light of the case, the village is considering a number of new measures to address the safety issues involving the safe crossing of schoolchildren."

Mildrekia Watson, who attended the news conference in a wheelchair, is unable to speak and is blind in one eye. Her mother said Mildrekia needs to be lifted out of bed in the morning and must be fed ground food.

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"It's not easy for her being nonverbal," Mildrekia's mother, Mildred Curry, said at the news conference. "Today she has us to speak for her. And we are seeking justice."

Nassau police said that Mildrekia and her brother Jovon Watson, who was 8 at the time and is fully recovered from his injuries, were crossing Fulton Avenue, called Hempstead Turnpike elsewhere in Hempstead Town, around 3:30 p.m. when a Toyota Camry struck Mildrekia.

Gucciardo said the crossing guard was about 80 feet from the children at the time. The children believed that she had motioned for them to cross, and they walked against the light, Gucciardo said.

The insurance company of the driver who hit Mildrekia will pay $100,000 of the settlement, Gucciardo said. The driver was not charged with a crime, police said.

Gucciardo said that he is calling upon local officials to make that intersection, which is near an elementary school and a high school, safer for pedestrians.

He said he'd like to see crossing guards better trained and required to carry stop signs, along with a speed limit of 15 mph there and signs installed alerting drivers to the speed limit.

Earlier this year, a Newsday investigation of Hempstead Turnpike found 32 people were killed and at least 427 injured in 457 pedestrian crashes on the road from 2005 through 2010.

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