Mother of crash victims appeals to Guinn for highway dividers

RENO - The mother of two children killed in a traffic accident on the edge of Reno is trying to gather support for median dividers on a dangerous stretch of the Pyramid Highway.

Fighting back tears, Denise Phoenix appealed to Gov. Kenny Guinn to put in some sort of median barriers on the highway north of town.

She told the Nevada Transportation Board that more fatal accidents are inevitable unless the dividers are placed between the northbound and southbound traffic.

Phoenix lost her daughter, Shasta Suraco, 6, and the girls uncle, Ronald Phoenix, 37, in a Feb. 20 head-on crash. Son Justin Suraco, 8, suffered severe injuries in the crash and died April 7.

The oncoming car driver, Lafayette Lee, 66, also died in the wreck. Police said Lee's erratic driving was the result of his diabetes.

Phoenix wants a barrier on Pyramid Highway from Queen Way to Sparks Boulevard.

She had previously taken her requests to the Regional Transportation Commission, but officials couldn't act because the Nevada Department of Transportation operates the highway. RTC officials have said the county can do nothing to force the state to build dividers.

Guinn promised NDOT officials would meet with the RTC to get information about the road and the history of collisions. He asked for recommendations from staff and a chart of the road at the next board meeting.

''Our hearts and thoughts are with your family,'' Guinn said. ''We'll absolutely take a look at it at our next meeting when we have the necessary detail and can take action if needed.''

Parent-teacher groups in the Spanish Springs area and other residents along the heavily traveled highway have written letters to the state in support of dividers.


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