Officers increase presence at Irvine Avenue intersection

NEWPORT BEACH — School and police officials guided cars and pedestrians at a crosswalk near Newport Harbor High School on Thursday morning, two days after a girl was critically injured while crossing there.

A Newport Beach Police Department motorcycle officer watched the intersection and chased errant drivers and bicyclists, while another officer guided students across the four-lane Irvine Avenue.

It was all about minimizing risk after an allegedly intoxicated driver struck 17-year-old Crystal Morales on Tuesday afternoon.

Morales, a Harbor High senior, was crossing with three other people shortly before school was let out. She remained in critical condition at Western Medical Center in Santa Ana, with head trauma, internal bleeding, brain swelling and other internal injuries. Doctors induced a coma in hopes of helping her body recover.

Parents have complained that the crosswalk at Margaret Avenue should have some sort of additional safety measures. The Newport Beach city traffic engineer met with school officials earlier this year, but they have not settled on a plan. On Thursday, School Resource Officer Marie Gamble acted as a temporary crossing guard.

"You have to make eye contact," she said to a group of students who were hurrying to cross after the morning's first bell rang.

Some people familiar with the intersection say students cross without really considering traffic.

"You just step out there and hope a car stops," said Bailey Rieke, 15, a sophomore.

Twitter: @mreicher

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