City leaders remember victims of Esplanade Ave. hit-and-run, call for better bicycle safety

NEW ORLEANS – Friends and public officials are memorializing the two people who were killed in Saturday’s hit-and-run collision on Esplanade Avenue.

“I was shocked to hear about the tragedy on Esplanade Avenue, and my thoughts are with the families and friends of Sharree Walls and David Hynes,” City Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer said.

Walls and Hynes were among nine people riding bicycles in the 3200 block of Esplanade Avenue around 9 p.m. on March 2 when a car driven by 32-year-old Tashonty Toney slammed into the group.

“By all accounts, these were individuals who brought great joy to those around them, and Sharree, in particular, was a champion of uplifting worthy causes in our community,” Palmer said. “The sudden and senseless nature of Saturday night’s events make this loss even more painful, and I urge anyone affected to reach out for any help you might need. I also wish a speedy recovery to those injured and know that the resources of the City stand ready to support in any way possible.”

Toney, the son of an NOPD officer, has been arrested and charged with two counts of vehicular homicide, seven counts of vehicular negligent injury, hit-and-run, and reckless operation.

Walls and Hynes died on the scene, while three other victims were rushed to the hospital with critical injuries.

“Sharree was a bright light in our community,” CEO of the Greater New Orleans Foundation president Andy Kopplin said. “Her joyful spirit was both inspiring and infectious. Sharree came to New Orleans to serve and quickly emerged as a sharp young professional and effective nonprofit leader. Emerging Philanthropists of New Orleans (EPNO) began as a fund of the Greater New Orleans Foundation and has blossomed into a promising organization due in part to Sharree’s vision and stewardship. She was not only a passionate philanthropist and leader of young professionals, but she was also a great person who was a joy to be around. Sharree had many friendships within our organization and had participated in our training programs for nonprofit leaders. Today our prayers go out to her family and the EPNO community.”

Palmer said the safety and security of bicycle riders needs to take precedent, especially since one in five New Orleans residents does not own a vehicle.

“Unfortunately, as Saturday night proved, simply painting a bicycle lane on the road is not enough to ensure the degree of safety our citizens deserve,” she said.

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