Mother of crash victims wants barrier on highway

RENO - A woman who lost two children and a brother in a Pyramid Highway collision said she will continue her crusade for a barrier to separate northbound and southbound lanes.

While local transportation officials have offered Denise Phoenix their personal support, they point out that the highway falls under the jurisdiction of the Nevada Department of Transportation.

The fiery, head-on crash claimed four lives and has been blamed on a diabetic condition that apparently caused one victim to lose control of his car.

Lafayette Lee, a 66-year-old diabetic from Reno, had been driving erratically before the Feb. 20 crash.

He crossed the centerline and slammed into an approaching vehicle driven by Phoenix's brother, Ronald Suraco, 37, of Sutcliffe.

Both drivers were killed. Phoenix's 6-year-old daughter, Shasta Suraco, died shortly after the accident. Her 8-year-old son, Justin, died April 7.

NDOT maintains a barrier would be too expensive, block entrance and exits to some driveways and cause water drainage problems.

Instead, agency officials propose rumble strips that will make car tires vibrate when drivers go onto them.

Phoenix said she's written several letters to state transportation oifficials but has not received a response.

NDOT spokesman Scott Magruder said the state would be willing to meet with Phoenix and others.

''Maybe we haven't responded yet, but we always respond,'' Magruder said.

Magruder said the agency feels for the families of the victims, but added, ''There's no way that you can go out and put a barrier on every road just because there's been a fatality.''


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