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Permanent Memorial For Bayshore Crash Victims Takes Shape

May 31, 2018

Balloons, flowers and stuffed animals now line a stretch of Tampa's Bayshore Boulevard where a mother and her toddler daughter were struck and killed by what police say were racing drivers.

Residents are discussing how to create a permanent memorial for Jessica Reisinger and her 21-month-old baby Lillia Raubenolt. Ideas include artist murals, a sculpture or a plaque and medallions to honor pedestrians and drivers who have died along the iconic boulevard.

South Tampa resident Zhenya Nichols has visited the makeshift memorial site at Bayshore and West Knights Avenue every day since the tragic crash. She floated the idea of a lily garden among her neighbors and that has sparked an outpouring of support and new ideas.

“A lot of people liked my idea of a lily garden and others proposed their own idea,” she said. “Some people want something more substantial to serve as a memorial and a reminder of the issues we have around here.”

Nichols said she has contacted the city for their input and approval. She said she's received initial support from Tampa City Councilman Harry Cohen and former Hillsborough County Comissioner Ed Turanchik. Both are running for mayor of Tampa.

“We know we need to stay inside the lines, so to speak, but we just need to know where those lines are,” she said.

The city and county have not officially weighed in on plans for a memorial.

Kirk Kumagai, president of the civic group Keep Our Bayshore Beautiful, said he supports a permanent memorial and hopes people honor the Raubenolt's through supporting efforts to make Tampa's streets safer, including a recent lowering of the speed limit on Bayshore.

“A memorial for the family is a great idea, but we have to do more,” he said. “We have the ability to stop this and help Tampa police and the city to protect our children."

The conversation about plans for the memorial is continuing on Facebook groups such as “Bayshore Memorial for Jessica and Lillia” and others. Nichols said she also plans to hold more community meetings where residents can present their ideas.

“We want to hear from people from all places, no matter politics or religion or anything,” she said. “I want this to be truly a community project.”