Driver charged in fatal crash involving mother, daughter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. --The driver in the crash that killed a mother and injured her daughter while they were attempting to cross a Mandarin road has been charged by the Florida Highway Patrol.

According to FHP, Michael Fortunato is being charged with careless driving, failure to yield to a pedestrian within a crosswalk and driving with an expired license.

"I don't think the careless driving, the expired license, and the failure to yield is enough. I think he should be charged with murder of both my daughter and Esther Ohayon," said Dena Grossi, who lost her 6-year-old after a pedestrian accident involving Fortunato.

Grossi heard the words she's been waiting to hear since her daughter Kaitlyn Springer was hit and killed while they were crossing the street in December of 2009, that the driver, Fortunato, was charged for another accident that also resulted in a death.

"Our families are friends now because of this tragedy and people shouldn't have to be put together because of something like this," said Grossi.

FHP closed its investigation in the pedestrian accident that killed 57-year-old Esther and injured 16-year-old Orly Ohayon as they attempted to cross San Jose Boulevard and Haley Road in September 2013, but the charges against Fortunato are moving violations and not criminal charges as some expected.

"Many people from the community thought that the charge would be a little more serious than it was," said Rabbi Yaakov Fisch, Etz Chaim Synagogue.

Related: Tragic loss for family and friends of Esther Ohayon

According to reports, the Ohayons were walking to synagogue on the Sabbath and were in the crosswalk, but had not touched the crosswalk button because their faith does not allow them to use electricity on holy days. When Grossi was crossing San Jose Boulevard at Kori Road a little over four years ago, she was also guiding herself by the traffic light.

"The detective who was on our case told me that he [Fortunato] was not going to be charged with anything because it was my fault that I didn't push the button," said Grossi.

After Esther's death, Rabbi Fisch pushed for change. Fisch says thanks to sensors installed by the Department of Transportation pedestrians have a longer time to cross. The motion sensors activate the crosswalk without requiring a pedestrian to push the button, and there are plans to add more lighting at the intersection.

Grossi has seen the changes, but just as she remembers her daughter every day, she also remembers the accident.

"I still cannot cross the street," said Grossi. "I'm terrified."

Related: Man who struck, killed 6-year old also struck pair in Mandarin

According to FHP, Fortunato has been cooperative throughout the case and provided investigators with information as requested. Fortunato is scheduled to appear in court April 22.

The family of Orly and Esther Ohayon released a statement on Tuesday, which can be read below:

2014 03 18 Statement of Ilana Ohayon


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