Twelve year old Kendra Czekaj was trying to console a friend late Tuesday evening when she ran after her 16 year old friend and onto the northbound lanes of Business 80 near the Watt Avenue exit, reported California Highway Patrol. Her friend was standing in the center median, but Czekaj was hit by a 2009 Lexus around 9:50 PM. The 40 year old driver was unable to avoid Czekaj and stayed at the scene. CHP does not suspect the driver was under the influence.
“It was nighttime, there was no overhead lighting in that particular spot. So, they were just not able to see someone running from the right shoulder in front of them,” said CHP Officer Greg Zumstein.
An off-duty doctor as well as an ambulance passing by stopped to offer aid before Sacramento firefighters could get there. However, Czekaj was pronounced dead approximately 15 minutes after the incident. CHP said all eastbound lanes of I-80 were closed at Watt Avenue after the crash. Around 11:55 PM, the interstate reopened.
The 16 year old involved in the incident was attempting to run away from the Children’s Receiving Home of Sacramento. The Children’s Receiving Home is a foster care facility that sits adjacent to Watt Avenue’s ramp. The CEO of the privately-owned facility, David Ballard, shared a statement saying: “The entire Children’s Receiving Home of Sacramento community is devastated by the tragic death on I-80 last night of a youth placed in our temporary shelter care facility. By law, CRH (as well as other residential facilities for foster children/youth), is not permitted to lock children onto campus to prevent them from leaving. Staff is required to follow youth when they leave campus to try to persuade them to return, and CRH did so last night.”
Even more, the CHP log indicates there were 8 to 10 individuals on the median after the tragedy. Those present may have been from the “rec home, poss staff, and other kids.” A 5150 hold—involuntary psychiatric hold when one is a danger to themselves or others—was also requested for a teen as well, records show.
The Elk Grove Tribune offers our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Kendra Czekaj.