COLLEGE PARK, Md. – He was set to graduate from George Washington University next month, and 23-year-old Carlos Pacanins had big plans for his life.
His family says the political science major would have entered politics and had his sights set on one day becoming the first Hispanic president of the United States. But that dream will never become a reality.
Pacanins was visiting friends at the University of Maryland last Friday when he was hit by a car shortly after 10 p.m. while crossing a busy U.S. 1/Baltimore Avenue at Knox Road in College Park.
Prince George’s County police say Pacanins was crossing near or at the crosswalk and didn’t have a walk signal. The police department also said in a statement, “alcohol may be a factor on the part of Pacanins.”
The driver of the car that struck him stayed on the scene and cooperated with police. Pacanins was taken to MedStar Washington, where he died from his injuries on Sunday.
Pacanins’ mother, Julieta Machado, on Monday joined family and friends at the intersection where her son was struck to lay flowers, join hands and remember the George Washington University student. Machado says her son was a fantastic person, a wonderful son and an amazing brother.
“We all loved him and we’re gonna miss him deeply,” she said.
“This loss is devastating,” said Keith Hearle, Machado’s fiance. He says his future stepson “was just a wonderful, happy man who had hundreds of friends.”
Machado says she is troubled by the speed at which cars go through the area, which sees a lot of college students on foot on a Friday night.
“Even if it’s the speed limit, I cannot imagine a car going at that speed with so many people on the street,” Machado said.
Hearle says he would like to see more done to slow drivers down and make walkers more aware: “Especially watching over the college kids who are coming out of these bars in whatever condition.”
“Something needs to be done,” Machado says about the intersection. Her son is the second college student to die after crossing the road in this area.
Cory Hubbard, 22, was killed in a hit-and-run accident in January.
“The police needs to watch better the area … watch what the patterns are and do a better job,” she said.
County Councilman Eric Olsen, whose district includes College Park, says, “We need to have more attention on Route 1.”
Olsen says ideas such as lighting and the timing of crosswalk lights should be considered.
“We have actually convened a pedestrian safety work group in the last couple of months to try to focus attention on the Route 1 corridor,” Olsen says.
To other students and people who commute in this area, Hearle says: Be careful.
“You see these things in the paper. You hear these things on the news,” Hearle said of the tragedy.
“You don’t focus on it unless it becomes very personal, and believe me, this has become very, very, deeply personal.”
Hearle said that in death, Pacanins is helping to save lives. His organs were donated to others in the area waiting for life-saving transplants.