As the alleged drunk driver who struck and killed an 8-year-old boy in January awaits trial, city officials hope pedestrian education efforts will prevent a future tragedy.
An expressionless Victor Aldana, 22, of Fairfax County, made appearances in general and juvenile courts for preliminary hearings Monday. Authorities charged Aldana with DUI manslaughter, DUI maiming, reckless driving and driving without a license after losing control of his car on January 15.
Police say Aldana was drunk when the Guatemalan national’s car, a 1994 Honda Accord, veered off the road, killing Brian Hernandez-Chavez of the Lincolnia area and injuring his 31-year-old mother. The car, traveling westbound on Duke Street near the interchange with I-395, came to a stop after hitting a traffic control box and the highway guardrail.
A fund created to support the boy’s family has raised nearly $14,000 since his death.
City prosecutors sought to combine the charges against Aldana in juvenile court — because Hernandez-Chavez was a minor — and those in general district court into a single grand jury indictment. Five witnesses testified against Aldana, prosecutors told Judge Becky Moore.
A grand jury will take up Aldana’s case in March, officials said.
The boy’s death shocked the community, particularly West End residents. Cameron Station Civic Association representative Mindy Lyle lobbied city council members to make necessary safety improvements at their January 21 meeting.
“People risk their lives on a daily basis going about the simple tasks many of us take for granted,” she told the city council. “Every day hundreds of people cross [I-395] on Duke Street without the benefit of signals, signage or pedestrian education … They must get to jobs, school, doctors or run errands by the only avenue they have available.”
When and if Landmark Mall is redeveloped, the adjacent roads will undergo significant improvements in conjunction with the state, said Rich Baier, transportation department director. Until then, officials will meet with pedestrians in the area and discuss safety concerns.
They also will push pedestrians to consider mass transit, he said, thus hopefully removing them from the busy interchange altogether.
“Unfortunately, [pedestrians are] walking through the middle of this mega I-395 interchange, which spans [more] than a city block,” Baier said. “It’s definitely a difficult issue.”