After her son died, Jeri Dye Lynch wanted to show people killed in hit-and-runs aren't just tragic victims — they're proof of a major problem.
By Sandy Banks, October 28, 2013
Jeri Dye Lynch lights a candle at a bus stop bench at Woodman and
Addison avenues. Three years ago, her son Conor Lynch was struck and
killed in a hit-and-run accident near the intersection.
They consider running a family thing. Jeri Dye Lynch and her three
sons ran every chance they got — right up until the day her oldest boy,
Conor, was struck and killed by a car as he crossed the street outside
his high school on his way to cross country practice.
It's only fitting that since he died in 2010, Lynch has used running as a way to memorialize her child. On Sunday, the Conor Lynch Foundation
held its third annual 5K race to raise money for efforts to promote
safety for pedestrians, runners, cyclists and young drivers.
Almost 2,000 people turned out; most of them teenagers from San
Fernando Valley schools. There were wristbands, T-shirts and a giant bus
sponsored by Text Kills, with a simulator that puts kids behind the wheel while they try to read a cellphone text. They quickly inevitably wreck.
Conor Lynch was 16 when he died,
a junior at Notre Dame High in Sherman Oaks. The car that hit him was
driven by an 18-year-old who didn't have a license. She didn't stop, but
drove on for several blocks, until she spotted a police officer, pulled
over and said, "I think I hit somebody."
Some witnesses said it looked like driver Moran Biton
sped up to make it through an intersection just before she hit Conor,
who was dashing across busy Woodman Avenue, trying to catch up with his
cross country teammates.
Biton pleaded guilty to driving without a license and hit-and-run,
both misdemeanors. She was placed on probation and ordered to perform
Jeri Dye Lynch was sentenced to grief, then anger, then resolve. She
wanted practical measures: Digital signs that broadcast how fast a
driver is traveling. The return of drivers' education classes for every
high school student.
But she knows that isn't enough. She wants to change the
conversation, so that dead pedestrians aren't just tragic victims, but
proof of something gone wrong.
The banners on display at the memorial run Sunday brought that home: "Accidents don't just happen. They are caused."
A pedestrian is struck and killed, on average, almost every few days in Los Angeles.
More than one-third of motor vehicle deaths in this city involve
pedestrians. That's one of the highest rates in the country, and it just
Many of those are hit-and-run cases — difficult for police to solve and impossible for grief-stricken families to comprehend.
"You wonder what kind of person could run somebody down and not even
pull over to render aid," said Eve Bonanomi, whose son Michael was
killed in August by a hit-and-run driver.
Michael Bonanomi, 35, lived in Santa Monica but was house-sitting for
his parents in Studio City. He was crossing Ventura Boulevard, coming
back from dinner, when a late-model white Mercedes flew by, knocking him
onto its hood, then flinging him onto the street.
Police have been trying to find the car, but it didn't have a license
plate. Michael's friends have been papering the neighborhood with
fliers in case someone knows something. The city is offering a $50,000
reward for information on the driver.
His parents still know nothing.
They came to Conor's memorial on Sunday because the families share a
bond. They didn't run, just walked around the crowded park — with
pictures pinned to their chests of their smiling, handsome son.
Last month, the City Council moved to tighten tracking of hit-and-run
deaths and enact tougher penalties for drivers who flee the scene of
That came four days after a 16-year-old boy was struck and killed
outside his church in South L.A., as he left a youth group meeting. The
white Nissan Maxima sped away.
Just this past weekend, two pedestrians died: A young man was killed
while he tried to cross the Glendale Freeway on Sunday. Two cars hit
him; only one of them stopped. On Friday night, a mother of three was
run down in La Habra in a Whittier Boulevard crosswalk. Police chased
and captured the driver; she's 20 years old.
You don't even have to be walking to become a statistic.
Two years ago, an infant in a stroller on the sidewalk was killed
during L.A.'s downtown Art Walk by a car that jumped the curb. Two
months ago, a man was killed waiting for his car at the valet stand
outside a restaurant on Ventura Boulevard.
And just last week a woman was struck and killed in Inglewood.
She had just buckled a baby into a safety seat and was standing next to
her car. A pickup truck slammed into her, throwing her 30 feet into the
air, before driving off.
The next day, the driver called police and turned himself in. He was
booked for felony hit-and-run and jailed on $50,000 bail. Police
credited news coverage of the case with persuading him to surrender.
It will take more than tougher laws to save pedestrians' lives. Lynch
sees her job as reminding drivers, new and old, about the
responsibility that being behind the wheel requires.
"She's really done a remarkable job of turning a tragedy into
something very positive for young people," said Notre Dame High School
Principal Stephanie Connelly. Lynch visits often to share Conor's story
with students. Conor's two brothers attend the school; the youngest is
about to begin driving.
On a sidewalk near where Conor died is a bus bench that bears witness
to the teen's passing. "Three years later and there are still always
flowers there," Connelly said. "I don't know who does it."
There on Monday afternoon, lighting candles, reading cards and freshening the flowers, was Conor's resolute mother.