LAKELAND, Fla. — A man who lives across from where 17-year-old Elani Miller was struck in a hit-and-run crash on January 7 has started raising money online to build a sidewalk along the roadway to help prevent future crashes.
- Stuart Rutherford started GoFundMe campaign
- Rutherford: "We've been asking for years ... to put in a sidewalk"
- RELATED: Girl, 17, Injured in Lakeland Hit and Run; Driver Sought
Deputies said Elani Miller, 17, was walking along Swindell Road to her Citrus Connections bus stop when an SUV hit her and kept going. The bus was going to take her to New Beginnings High School.
Miller was propelled into a ditch and was left there until an elementary school student heard her cries for help and got a neighbor to call 911.
Miller’s mother Suzette said her daughter has had two surgeries and is awaiting another. Her daughter has two broken legs and a broken wrist.
Suzette said she complained about this dangerous trek to the bus stop before her 17-year-old daughter was hit. The particular stretch of Swindell Road doesn’t have a sidewalk and not much grass due to a drainage ditch.
“Prior to this happening, I called the district many times and they said this is how it’s been done for years, and it's ridiculous,” said Suzette.
Stuart Rutherford, who lives across the street from the crash site, said he’s been cutting the grass there to make it a little safer.
“We’ve been asking for years, the neighborhood has, to put in a sidewalk,” Rutherford said.
The county added one recently a block away from the crash, but not between Pineville Lane and Ponderosa Dr, where Elani was hit.
“It’s deep ditches, very muddy high grass, definitely not somewhere you want your kids walking,” Rutherford said.
Tired of seeing kids walking close to the busy road, Rutherford started an online fundraiser to pay for a sidewalk.
“I don’t want children to get hurt," he told us. "I don’t people to have to be all muddy and nasty on their way to school. I don’t want to see young kids walking on the road. No one should be unsafe going to school. That’s just it. That’s the plain fact about it."
No sidewalk anytime soon, but ...
Polk County Roads and Drainage Director Jay Jarvis said it help with funding would speed up the process of extending the sidewalk there.
“If there was funding made available, we would move forward with the project,” said Jay Jarvis.
Otherwise, Jarvus said that stretch of Swindell is not scheduled for the construction of a sidewalk in 2019.
Under the typical process, it wouldn’t be until August before the Sidewalk Advisory Committee would vote on whether to fund constructing a sidewalk there in 2020.
The Miller family said it also wants the New Beginnings High School bus stop moved. Citrus Connection is looking into the matter.
Meanwhile, the Polk County Sheriff's Office said it is still looking for the person driving a 1999-2006 dark colored GMC Yukon rt Chevy Tahoe or Suburban who hit Miller.