Judge calls site where officer hit a ‘hot spot’

Judge William Smith (at podium) discusses the death of federal court security officer Frank McKnight (right)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The chief judge of U.S. District Court in Providence says officials must make sure an accident like the one that killed federal court security officer Frank McKnight this week never happens again.

Judge William Smith, along with U.S. Marshal Jamie A. Hainsworth and North Kingstown Police Chief Thomas Mulligan, discussed the tragedy during a news conference at the federal courthouse.

“We all stand before you with a very heavy heart,” said a tearful Hainsworth. “Frank’s absence is immediately felt. There is a void at our front doors today.”

McKnight, 69, died on Thursday as a result of the injuries he sustained during Wednesday’s bus accident.

He was on duty and walking across the street outside the courthouse when he was struck by the RIPTA bus near Kennedy Plaza. Police said surveillance footage shows the bus stopped at a red light, then turning on to Washington Street – where McKnight was crossing at a crosswalk.

During the news conference, Judge Smith said the crosswalk where McKnight was hit is a “particular hot spot” for problems. He said he plans to meet with the mayor and police chief about improving traffic safety in Kennedy Plaza.

“I suspect the appropriate people are going to look at the whole situation,” Smith said.

RIPTA spokeswoman Cristy Raposo told the Associated Press the agency is continuously looking at safety at the travel hub.

A major project to redesign Kennedy Plaza is out to bid. It would reduce the number of buses and make it more pedestrian friendly. RIPTA said many riders expressed concerns about Kennedy Plaza during a survey conducted last year.

McKnight died at the hospital Thursday night with his family by his side. While arrangements are still in the works, services will be held sometime next week for the former police lieutenant.

Before spending the last 13 years as a court officer, McKnight served as an officer in the North Kingstown Police Department for 25 years. He retired at the rank of lieutenant and was remembered as a “dedicated, career law enforcement officer and public servant who came to work eager and ready to serve.”

RIPTA CEO Raymond Studley said the bus driver involved in the accident – a 27-year veteran with RIPTA – is “extremely distraught.” She has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation.

Police said neither drugs, alcohol nor texting while driving appear to be factors in the accident. RIPTA said the incident appears to be “just a tragic accident.”

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