After months of grieving the loss of her 8-year-old son, Tansy Silva said she is ready to start seeking justice for him and get safety improvements in place.
Her son, Elijah Chaudhary — who she calls Eli — and his 1-year-old half-brother were riding with their stepmother Zara Salaman on Jan. 10 in the afternoon on West Whitestone Boulevard in Cedar Park.
As they were turning left onto Walton Way, their car was hit by a pickup truck going westbound. Eli and his half-brother Daniel were killed and their stepmother was hospitalized.
Police say Hayden Hammer,18, was driving the pickup that struck the car Eli was in, according to court records. Hammer admitted to police he was “drag racing” at the time.
He was arrested for his role in the crash and another driver racing, Blake Kirkpatrick, 22, was later arrested as well.
Silva described her son Eli as a gentle soul who loved animals and talked about someday becoming a veterinarian.
“He had autism and he had five years of therapy where he had overcome so much,” Silva recalled. “And we had so much hope for him.”
“It’s completely preventable,” Silva said of her son’s death.
She doesn’t want another family to go through the same grief she has, which is why she’s taking his story to the Cedar Park City Council meeting Thursday at 7 p.m.
She wants to talk about how to prevent street racing and how to make the intersection where her son was killed safer.
Silva said that many people have contacted her since then with concerns about that same intersection. She wants to talk about the possibility of improving signage and traffic flow through the area.
Cedar Park police say that they made an arrest in a second racing crash that happened on Jan. 16 involving cars that were also going westbound on West Whitestone Boulevard.
At that time, CPPD explained that racing cases can be difficult to track because proving that someone was racing usually depends upon surveillance video and witness details.
They haven’t seen any similar crashes since, but they are now looking for evidence of drivers racing while they patrol. CPPD has also been trying to raise awareness about the consequences of racing.
Jennie Huerta with the city of Cedar Park released a statement addressing Silva’s concerns Thursday:
“The City is very interested to hear from Elijah’s mother on Thursday evening and her comments will be seriously considered as we continue conducting a thorough evaluation into all factors that were involved in the tragic crash that took two innocent young lives, and caused grave injuries to a mother – forever impacting the involved families and our entire community.”
Huerta added that anytime a crash like this happens, it triggers a thorough review by city staff. The police investigation into this case is ongoing, but the city says once it’s complete, appropriate steps will be taken to improve the intersection.
According to court records, Hammer showed up on his own to the Cedar Park Police Department the day after the crash looking for his property.
He told law enforcement that day, “Look, if I have to do time, I’ll do my time. I did it.”
Silva also expressed concerns about the penalties the suspected drivers faced. She felt Hammer’s bond should have been higher for his involvement in the crash that killed two children.
On Jan. 19, Hammer was charged with two counts of racing on a highway causing death. Bond totaled $30,000.
Hammer posted bond and was out of jail the next day and before the third charge related to this crash was filed.
On Jan. 24, Hammer was also charged with racing involving serious bodily injury, with a bond set for $100,000, and with a charge for theft in Callahan County, Texas, with a bond set at $5,000. He was able to bond out by March 1.
The Williamson County Clerk’s Office confirmed that on Feb. 23 a judge added a stipulation to Hammer’s bond: “No driving and must live in a stable environment.”
Blake Kirkpatrick, the driver police believe Hammer was racing, was also charged with two counts of racing resulting in death and one count of racing involving serious bodily injury. Court records show Kirkpatrick was released on bond Feb. 2.
KXAN spoke on the phone with Hammer Tuesday and while he didn’t want to comment about his charges, he explained that he is not allowed to drive right now and he would like to get a permit that would allow him to drive from home to work.
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