Andrea Gilkey has grown accustomed to the screeching sound of cars colliding on busy Hawthorne Boulevard. But nothing could prepare her for the horrible accident she witnessed when a toddler wandered out of a home, unbeknown to his parents, and onto the Torrance thoroughfare where he was hit by two cars and killed.
In what is every parent's nightmare, 19-month-old Amir Abdeljed slipped out of a relative's home and walked onto a busy street Friday night. The tragedy has left parents fearful of letting their children play in the frontyard and neighbors wondering how the tragedy could happen.
"Since the accident we're being even more careful about letting our kids play out front," said neighbor Linda Craig, who has four children. "It's really made us aware of how dangerous it can be."
Police said Amir crept out of a home that he and his parents were visiting in the 20000 block of Hawthorne Boulevard and walked east across the street about 9 p.m. Friday. The boy made it across an access road and through seven lanes of traffic before reaching the easternmost lane, where he was struck by a Pontiac Fiero.
The impact of the collision knocked the toddler into the next lane, where he was hit by an Oldsmobile. Amir suffered massive trauma to his head and body and was rushed to Little Company of Mary Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The driver of the Pontiac remained at the scene, but police are still looking for the driver of the Oldsmobile. Torrance Police Sgt. Jack Rizzo said police are not considering the accident a hit-and-run because the Oldsmobile driver may not be aware that he had hit the boy. Police would not comment on whether Amir's parents are being investigated for negligence.
Neighbors are still reeling from the accident. Gilkey, 21, was paying a pizza deliveryman when she saw Amir's body fly through the air.
At first, Gilkey said, she thought it was a hubcap, but when all the cars came to a stop she realized it was a child.
Gilkey rushed over to the scene of the accident, which occurred near one of the shopping centers that line the largely commercial boulevard. As she helped another driver give Amir cardiopulmonary resuscitation, her boyfriend, Dias Ichiho, called for help.
When Gilkey recognized the child as the playful boy whom she had seen walking with his father less than 20 minutes earlier, she rushed to inform the family. She said the front door to the home was wide open on that warm night.
Amir's parents did not know that their son had gotten outside, Gilkey said. They peeked into a room where they thought he was safe, and grew hysterical when they realized he wasn't there.
"The father was hitting his head and screaming 'Oh my God, oh my God,' " said Gilkey, adding that he collapsed in shock when he saw his son and had to be taken to the hospital. "It was really sad."
Patrons at the Torrance Promenade shopping center came streaming out of the stores, and many motorists traveling on Hawthorne Boulevard, which was closed between Halison Street and Del Amo Boulevard for 3 1/2 hours, got out of their cars to offer help, Gilkey said. Many neighbors took flowers to the home.
"This is the most terrible accident I've ever seen in my 42 years on this street," said Woody Woodard. "It will be a long time before people smile again."