Remembering Damian Solis, 11, Killed Crossing the Street

Damian Solis was in fifth grade at Rocky Mountain Prep Creekside. Photo: GoFundMe
Damian Solis was in fifth grade at Rocky Mountain Prep Creekside. Photo: GoFundMe

Family and friends of 11-year-old Damian Solis are in mourning after a driver struck and killed him on a dangerous road, but the Colorado State Patrol is laying blame at the feet of the victim.

On Monday night, Maria Yurivilca, 45, drove into Solis with her SUV near Quebec Street and Evans Avenue, just on the edge of southeast Denver in unincorporated Arapahoe County.

Solis was a fifth grader at Rocky Mountain Prep Creekside. The school created a fundraising page in his memory, in order to help his family with any associated costs. From the online memorial:

This loss is horrific for our community.

Damian was smart, he was witty, and he had an enormous heart. He loved insects, Big Foot, and all things science; he made the silliest faces. He had a vast imagination that sparked incredibly creative stories.

Above all, in the five years that we knew him, his deep empathy for others never wavered: he was a sweet student, a loyal friend, and a protective brother. Every day in carline, Damian would hug Ms. Kassinger and tell her, “I miss you every day.”

We know we will miss Damian every day.

Just before 8 p.m. on Monday, Solis had visited a Shell gas station convenience store with another boy, and proceed to an apartment complex on the other side of the street, Colorado State Trooper Nate Reed said. Halfway across, Solis stepped off the raised concrete median between stopped cars queuing to turn left. He continued to the middle lane, where the driver struck and killed him.

Reed was sure to tell Streetsblog and other media outlets that Solis was “wearing dark clothing” and crossing mid-block. “Instead of going 250 feet to the east, they decided to cross right where they were,” Reed said. The area where Solis crossed was unlit by streetlights, he added.

Meanwhile, we still don’t know exactly how fast Yurivilca was going — that’s something the investigation will reveal through the on-board computer, Reed said. She’s not facing any charges.

The block where Solis was struck is a disaster waiting to happen. There are houses and stores, but the street is designed for high traffic speeds and the posted limit is 35 mph — not a safe driving speed for an area where people walk. That’s why Seattle, for example, is lowering speed limits to 20 mph on residential streets.

The approximate location of Solis's crossing. Image: Google Maps
The approximate location where Solis was struck. Image: Google Maps

The intersection where Reed said Solis should have gone out of his way to cross — Evans and Quebec — is deadly too. CSP, Arapahoe County, the City and County of Denver, and the Colorado Department of Transportation all know the dangers there, but they point the finger at each other. Reports Fox31:

Half of the intersection is in Denver, the other half is in unincorporated Arapahoe County. The Denver Police Department said officers have worked 56 crashes at the intersection in the past seven years.

Denver Public Works and Arapahoe County officials said the Colorado Department of Transportation is responsible for any safety improvements at the intersection.

While support for a median barrier and more signage is growing, investigators stress nothing illegal such as speeding or alcohol is suspected in Monday’s crash. But troopers said that hasn’t always been the case.

“We have had fatals, serious injury crashes and DUI crashes in this area,” Davey said. “It’s definitely one we’ve been focusing on.”

CDOT said the city of Denver and Arapahoe County share responsibility on safety improvements to the intersection.

To review: A child has been killed in an area that officials know to be deadly. To have government reps tell it, no one is responsible except Solis, who is gone. Naturally, their answer is to erect a barrier to stop people from crossing the street, instead of calming traffic and creating safer crossings.

Rest in peace, Damian.