Community wonders if signal light might have saved teen

By Jamie Nash

James Marquez’s family should be celebrating his eighteenth birthday today. Instead, they are trying to scrape together enough money to bury him and questioning whether he would be alive if a signal light were in place at a notorious local intersection.

Marquez lived with his family in the back of the Crystal Forest subdivision off of SH 105 near Cut and Shoot. He was driving his 1996 Nissan sedan to Conroe High School around 7 a.m. last Thursday morning when he tried to turn westbound onto SH 105 from Crystal Forest Drive and was struck by an eastbound Toyota Tundra pickup.

Firefighters freed the teen from the crumpled car, and MCHD medics began called for a PHI Air Ambulance, which transported the critically injured teen to Memorial Hermann Hospital, Texas Medical Center in Houston where he died just over 24 hours later.

In addition to the Marquez tragedy, the area of SH 105 where Crystal Forest intersects has been the scene of countless major accidents, including a November 2005 crash that killed two people and critically injured a third, an August 2008 crash that killed one, and March 2006 collision that left one person critically injured.

Mattie Long, who works at the convenience store on the corner of SH 105 and Crystal Forest, said it seems as though a crash occurs there about every other day. Long was on duty when Marquez was struck and called the sound of the impact “horrendous,” adding that it was the loudest she ever heard. As she dialed 911, Long said she looked through the blinds on the window behind the cash register could barely see Marquez’s car because it was pushed so far off of the road on the other side.

Unfortunately, Long has heard so many collisions while on the job that she immediately knew what had happened. In the four to five years she has been a clerk at that store, Long has also heard complaint after complaint from drivers who have to deal with that intersection regularly. The store has been used about three times to gather signatures on petitions demanding a signal light at the Crystal Forest intersection, Long said, but so far the efforts have failed and the crashes continue.

On Sunday evening, members of Marquez’s immediate and extended family gathered at his home to comfort his parents. The need for a signal light was a topic of discussion there too. Sylvia Marquez, James’s cousin, said members of the family had personally witnessed three accidents at that intersection and one of those was fatal. Between 7 and 8 a.m., she said, it can take 20 minutes simply to pull out of the subdivision’s only exit onto SH 105. It is unknown how long James Marquez waited before he pulled out and was struck.

Sylvia Marquez said her cousin James was excited about turning 18 and had a party planned for last Saturday night. The teen, who was one of five children, worked at a local fast food restaurant and paid for his car. His mother had her fifth child just a few months ago and the family’s finances were already stretched thin.

Now, Marquez’s parents have over $11,000 in unexpected funeral expenses. There is a jar for contributions at La Palma Mexican Restaurant in Conroe.

Cashner’s Funeral Home in Conroe is handling the arrangements, with the viewing from 2 to 9 p.m. on Thursday and the funeral service at 3 p.m. on Friday.

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