BU Frosh Killed, Safety On Mem Drive Questioned

A Boston University freshman died Wednesday morning after a car struck her on Memorial Drive near the Hyatt Regency Hotel the previous evening.

The 17-year-old victim, Beatriz Ponce, was returning from an intramural soccer game at around 11:30 p.m. that Tuesday. As she was crossing Memorial Drive towards the Hyatt—a hotel that acts as a dorm for many Boston University (BU) freshmen—a Ford Focus hit her where the road intersects Amesbury Street.

The 31-year-old driver of the car, Maurizio Aragona, had the right of way and has not been charged, according to Massachusetts State Police.

Ponce—called the “epitome of happiness” by classmate Chiara Cortez in The Daily Free Press—hailed from Caracas, Venezuela and studied international relations at the college.

“She had only been here a month, and for those who knew her...this is something that has a devastating effect,” said BU spokesman Colin Riley.

The accident doesn’t surprise those Cambridge residents who have long taken issue with safety on Memorial Drive.

And it’ll only get worse, according to Lawrence Adkins, president of the Riverside Neighborhood Association. The parkway’s lack of crosswalks will grow increasingly dangerous as the “culture” of the road evolves with the advent of hotels, businesses, and more pedestrians, he said.

“The foresight should have been there,” Adkins added.

The community has, in fact, recently taken steps to shore up safety on the road. The Cambridgeport Neighborhood Initiative successfully urged authorities to place a light and crosswalk at the intersection of Memorial Drive and Pleasant Street, said the group’s Co-chair Eli Yarden. But it’s up to residents to stop using the parkway as a high-speed commuter highway, he added.

“What is needed, is to set and enforce the [25 miles-per-hour] speed limit,” Yarden said.

The Department of Conservation and Recreation—a group charged with securing safety along Memorial Drive—is investigating “the cause of the accident” and that it has checked to make sure “the pedestrian crosswalk was working,” said Vanessa Gulati, the group’s spokeswoman.

“You don’t need to remind people of this incident,” said Riley, of BU. “You need to remind them of the consequences, and they can be fatal.”

In 2000, Jason Sibert, 23, was killed after a car struck him while crossing Memorial Drive near the BU bridge.

The large BU community, and their smaller Ivy League neighbor across the river, should both draw lessons about pedestrian safety from the incident, Riley said.

He said, “There’s not a lot of difference between the Harvard environment and the environment of our students.”

—Staff writer Rebecca M. Anders can be reached at