The son of a woman struck and killed as she crossed a busy south Minneapolis street is making a passionate yet pointed plea to the driver who fled.
“I am begging for you to come forward and rectify your mistake,” Mike Mahigel wrote in a message to the unknown motorist who hit 74-year-old Barbara Ann Mahigel on Sunday as she and Lou Mahigel were about to celebrate their 52nd wedding anniversary. Michael Mahigel first posted his letter on Facebook and then gave it to police Wednesday for wider distribution. “Please accept the chance to give my mother the respect she deserved and her family the closure it so desperately needs.”
Barbara Mahigel, of Minneapolis, suffered numerous injuries early that evening when she was hit at Nicollet Avenue S. at 43rd Street, an intersection that neighbors have had concerns about for many months. She died the next day at Hennepin County Medical Center.
The driver continued north on Nicollet. The car was described only as a dark sedan. Police spokesman Scott Seroka said Wednesday there’s nothing new to report on the investigation.
Mahigel’s death occurred during the deadliest season in what is on pace to become one of the most lethal years for pedestrians. According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, 55 pedestrians have been killed on Minnesota roads so far this year compared to 36 at this time last year. Last year there were 41 pedestrian deaths for the entire year and 904 injuries.
Minneapolis Council Member Elizabeth Glidden, whose ward includes that intersection, said she and public works officials have attended neighborhood meetings about pedestrian safety in recent months.
There are “two popular restaurants right across the street from each other” at 43rd and Nicollet and a farmers market close by in the warmer months, attractions that fuel pedestrian traffic, Glidden said.
Mike Mahigel said his parents had just parked their vehicle and were walking toward Revival for dinner on their 52nd wedding anniversary.
As they crossed at the corner, Lou Mahigel offered his typical steadying hand to his wife, who walked with a cane. Lou was just behind Barbara as the car hit.
“He was 6 inches behind her,” Mike Mahigel said. “He had some bruises from her flying into him.”
The car narrowly missed Lou Mahigel. In his grief, the son said, his father “wishes it were both of them.”
Mike Mahigel’s written plea to the driver was inspired by how his mother led her life, which she dedicated to civil rights in the 1960s, gay rights more recently and charity work on behalf of the poor.
“If my mother had accidentally struck you with her car … she would have stopped,” the son wrote. “She would have gotten out of her car and hoped for God’s forgiveness. She would have hurried to your side and would have held your hand as you writhed in pain, and gasped for air while lying helpless on the cold pavement.
“She would have prayed that you survived without serious injury and that you and your family would remain whole. She would have accepted the consequences of her actions no matter what they were. She would have lived out her years with constant guilt and in constant grief, but she would have lived knowing that she did everything she could to save you and give closure to your family.”
A perilous corner
Glidden said a short-term proposal being considered since September called for the installation at 43rd and Nicollet of “bump-outs,” spaces off curbs protected by a series of posts where people can stand and get a better view of traffic before crossing.
Officials, however, have decided to wait until spring before installing these protected areas, she said. Even if the bump-outs had been in place, police have yet to disclose enough about the hit-and-run to indicate whether they would have made a difference.
Other fixes suggested by neighbors have included marked crosswalks — there are none at 43rd and Nicollet — traffic lights or pedestrian-activated flashing lights.
“You can have a crosswalk, but that doesn’t mean a car will stop,” Glidden said. “It could actually put pedestrians more at risk” because they’ll assume the driver knows to stop, she added. Those options are costly, Glidden said, and have to be weighed with priorities elsewhere in the city.
Glidden says “safety is clearly an issue at this corner,” but adds that statistics she has seen for 43rd and Nicollet don’t show anything out of the ordinary. “Sometimes the data doesn’t speak to you,” she said. “And that’s the case here. The data doesn’t talk about near-misses.”
A restaurant staff mourns
Barb and Lou Mahigel lived for decades in Edina, then moved to their “dream home” three or four years ago along Lake Harriet. They had a weekly dinner reservation for the past several years at the Bachelor Farmer in the Warehouse District of Minneapolis and otherwise have been “doing nothing but charity work since their retirement,” their son said.
Eric Dayton, a co-owner of the Bachelor Farmer, said that “I can’t overstate how hard” the news of Barb Mahigel’s death “has hit our entire team here.”
Dayton, who routinely led the Mahigels to their table, said everyone at the restaurant “considered them part of our family. It was just as if one of our own had been killed. This has been very upsetting, [and] we hope whoever is responsible will do the right thing.”
Mike Mahigel said he’s hoping his statement will calm those in his parents’ large network of friends who are angry about the driver’s decision to leave his mother in the street.
“There are other people who are furious,” he said. “There are a lot of people who just seemed so angry. … My mother was not an angry person, not a vengeful person. … I want to illustrate what she would have done in that situation.”
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