CT lawmakers look to increase safety around ice cream trucks after boy's death

Photo of Luther Turmelle
State Rep. Liz Linehan

State Rep. Liz Linehan

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Two New Haven area lawmakers say they will work on legislation to keep children safe while honoring the memory of a 10-year-old Wallingford boy who was killed crossing a road just after buying ice cream.

Tristan Barhorst had just purchased an item from an ice cream truck on June 12 and walked in front of the vehicle to cross Wiese Road when he was hit by a Jeep that was being driven by a 17-year-old, according to police.

A measure that could help prevent a future tragedy would be to require ice cream trucks to have a mechanical arm that swings out from the side of the vehicle to warn drivers approaching from the rear of the potential for people crossing the road, according to state Rep. Liz Linehan, D-Cheshire.

Linehan and Rep. Mary Mushinsky, D-Wallingford, both say they will examine ways to make patronizing ice creams trucks safer for children.

“My promise to Tristan’s mom is that we will raise some sort of legislation when the legislature reconvenes next year,” said Linehan, whose district includes both Cheshire and Wallingford.

The mechanical arm would be similar those attached to school buses, which stop traffic in both directions when riders are getting on or being dropped off, she said.

“We need to do something because the kids are preoccupied with getting the ice cream,” said Mushinsky, who represents Wallingford.

Linehan said, “Right now, we are researching to see if other state do anything like this.”

“I don’t know how practical it would to stop traffic for the entire time people are buying ice cream, but it would be good to have something to alert drivers that children are there,” Linehan said.

The state of California has since 2001 required ice cream trucks to carry large signs reading “Warning” and “Children Crossing.” The law requiring the signs is known as the “Destiny Nicole Stout Memorial Act,” which is named for a 4-year-old San Bernardino girl killed in 1999 when she ran out to meet an ice cream truck.

“Exactly what form the legislation would take is (not) clear right now,” said Linehan, who is co-chairwoman of the General Assembly’s Committee on Children.

“We don’t want something so onerous that it would put ice cream trucks out of business,” Linehan said. “At the same time, we don’t want to prevent children from being able to live a normal life.”

The goal, she said, is to develop something comprehensive to improve pedestrian safety for children.

“We want to bring all the different stakeholders to the table in developing this,” Linehan said. “And we’d like to include more money from the state so that town’s could put in place more sidewalks.”

Tristan was a junior black belt in the Leadership Martial Arts school in Southington, according to his obituary from the Alderson-Ford Funeral Home in Cheshire.

Tristan also liked to fish, camp with friends, work with his dad on home projects, robotics, basketball, beating his mom at a game, among many other activities, according to his obituary, “and loved doing just about anything and everything with his sister Sienna.”

“Tristan, above all, was the most kind-hearted gentle and sweet spirit,” his obituary said. “He was compassionate, caring, thoughtful, funny, intelligent, and unbelievably appreciative and grateful for everything—right down to the simplest things...”

Police said the Cheshire Police Traffic Division, with the Naugatuck Valley Crash Investigation Team are conducting a “comprehensive investigation” into the accident. The 17-year-old driver of the vehicle, remained on scene after the accident and has cooperated with the investigation, police said.

“This is a tragic incident and our thoughts and prayers go out to all involved,” police said in a release.

A Mass was held for Tristan Friday at St. Bridget Church in Cheshire, a few miles from where he was killed. Tristan had recently completed fourth grade at the parish’s parochial school.

The Rev. Jeffrey Romans of St. Bridget, in noting the loss for the parish family, has said, “We don’t fully understand why this happened. We have to trust God and know that he will walk with us during this very difficult time.”

luther.turmelle@hearstmediact.com