FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – After a Fresno toddler was killed in a crash while waiting on the opening night of Christmas Tree Lane in 2020, officers and deputies are taking action this year to make sure tragedy doesn’t strike again.
Fresno police said on Dec. 1, 2020, 5-year-old Anton Solorio died near the entrance to Christmas Tree Lane after an Amtrak train hit a van that was waiting in line.
“I could hear the screech of the wheels on the tracks,” said Chalie Orta who lives on Shields Avenue.
Orta heard frantic horns and a loud bang that sent vibrations through his house before he heard a mother’s scream.
“The back end of that vehicle had been pretty much crushed and spun around right at the tracks,” said Orta. “The mother was frantically looking for her child.”
The family set up a memorial with balloons and flowers on the one-year anniversary of the crash that also marks the opening night of 2021 Christmas Tree Lane.
Fresno police officers, California Highway Patrol officers and Fresno County Sheriff’s deputies will be staged throughout the route to manage traffic and look for impaired drivers.
CHP officer Mike Salas said people waiting in line should be patient, pack snacks and water, follow all traffic laws and be aware of their surroundings at all times.
“Especially when you come across a train track,” said Salas. “Look for those arms, if you happen to hear bells ringing and those arms, make sure you are clear of the railroad track,” said Salas. “We had a tragedy last year, and we want to avoid anything like that.”
Christmas Tree Lane was started nearly 100 years ago at a home on Van Ness Avenue to honor a 14-year-old who died.
The Fresno tradition now is known for its bright lights and holiday cheer with around 140 homes and 300 trees decorated.
“Each house has its decorations and we have the lights canopying over the street, there are a couple of other Christmas tree lanes in California but we are the best,” said Christmas Tree Lane Chairman Dean Alexander.
The lane will run from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Sun-Thurs. and from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The last day is Christmas.