(Miami-Dade County, FL) -- Miami-Dade’s Infrastructure and Land Use Committee unanimously gave initial approval today to an ordinance that would require barriers to be placed in shopping centers in an effort to prevent vehicles from potentially crashing into storefronts. The ordinance was presented by Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz, who sponsored the item after being approached by Juan Carlos Albelo, father of Laymet Albelo, the victim of a fatal accident at a Bird Road shopping center last August. Both Laymet and Celeste Gaitan were killed at Bird Point Plaza on SW 40th Street and 134th Avenue when the driver of an SUV lost control and crashed his car into a storefront where the two women were sitting outside.
The ordinance stipulates that anti-ram fixtures would be placed in shopping centers when head-in parking is located adjacent to a storefront installation. The fixtures would be installed along the outer edge of the sidewalk to visually and physically separate the vehicular and pedestrian areas.
There were no barriers at Bird Point Plaza, where Gaitan and Albelo were sitting outside of Gaitan’s store, Celeste & Co. Boutique. The driver of the SUV had accidentally hit the car’s accelerator instead of the brake, causing the SUV to jump over the sidewalk and into the store. Both women died, and rescue efforts to save Gaitan’s unborn child were unsuccessful. Gaitan was almost seven months pregnant at the time of the accident.
Juan Carlos Albelo asked Commissioner Diaz to explore the possibility of requiring barriers in shopping centers to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again. After discovering similar incidents of accidents in shopping centers, Commissioner Diaz’s office drafted this ordinance. Coincidentally, another storefront crash occurred in Margate the same day Diaz presented the ordinance. An 82-year-old woman was killed this morning when her husband accelerated forward in their car in a Margate shopping center’s parking lot, slamming into a business.
Upon hearing that the ordinance was passed through committee, Mr. Albelo expressed gratitude and stated that the loss of his daughter will in some way prevent this from happening in the future.
“If approved, the ordinance would be enforced only for new shopping centers being built. However, I am interested in working with existing businesses who would like to take these extra precautions in keeping drivers and pedestrians safe in their shopping centers,” said Commissioner Diaz. “My sympathies remain with the Albelo and Gaitan families, as well as the family of the woman who died earlier today. These are tragedies that may be prevented with the barriers in place.”
The ordinance will be considered by the full Board of County Commissioners at a later date yet to be decided. For more information, please contact Commissioner Diaz’s office at 305-599-1200.