The 17-year-old was struck ain the roadway September 14. Police say the crash is being investigated, and that the driver likely is not at fault.
By Matt Skoufalos | September 22, 2023
During the morning rush hour of September 14, the Foster family of Camden City was traveling up Collings Avenue into Collingswood when one of the children dropped their phone out the window of their Toyota minivan.
Diana Foster pulled over on the side of the roadway in front of the Parkview apartments while her sons Zachariah, 17, and Thirdson, 15, went out to look for it.
“I saw Thirdson with his hands on his head,” she said.
“All I could hear him saying was ‘Zachariah, Zachariah.’
“By the time I got to the corner, I saw my son stretched out on the ground.”
From what the Fosters can piece together, Zachariah had entered the roadway at the intersection of Collings and the White Horse Pike to retrieve the phone. One driver saw him and stopped; the driver of the truck that veered around the first vehicle did not.
At the time of the crash, traffic on the White Horse Pike had the green light, while traffic along Collings Avenue was stopped, Collingswood Police Chief Kevin Carey said. The vehicle that struck Zachariah was traveling westbound on the White Horse Pike towards Camden.
The incident is still under investigation, but “speed was a factor,” Carey said, adding that the collision that killed the teen “appears to be no fault of the driver.”
According to traffic statistics published by the New Jersey State Police, Zachariah Foster is the fourth pedestrian to have been killed in a traffic crash in Camden County this year, and the 22nd victim of a fatal vehicle collision here.
Moreover, the area around the intersection of the White Horse Pike and Collings Avenue has seen its share of injuries and deaths throughout the years.
In 2021, 66-year-old Drew Watson of Collingswood was killed by a driver as he was crossing the Pike there. In 2019, an unidentified Collingswood woman was seriously injured under similar circumstances. Neither they nor Zachariah were in the marked crosswalk when they were struck.
‘He was doing everything he could to get his life together’
Zachariah was an athlete and an artist, his family said; a running back in football and an aspiring musician who had planned to produce and record his own tracks.
Although he hadn’t been enrolled in the Collingswood school district since 2021, Superintendent Fred McDowell confirmed that Zachariah was on pace to graduate from the Camden City school district this year.
“I share my condolences with the school community, and to his family,” McDowell said. “It’s just sad.”
Alice Bowman, Zachariah’s grandmother, remembered him as both responsible and “a lot of fun.
“He would come over every other day with his little brother, making sure we’re okay,” Bowman said. “He’d run to the store; change my water. He was a lot of help to me when nobody was around.”
Lysa Morze, a lifelong Collingswood resident, and family friend of the Fosters, said their children enjoyed an especially close relationship with hers.
Morze’s six-year-old son idolized Zachariah, and called him “big bro,” she said. He was one of the few boys she trusted her teenaged daughter to hang out with; someone who concerned himself with keeping an eye on the younger kids around him.
“I know people say that somebody can change a room and put a smile on everybody’s face, but he was the definition of that,” Morze said. “If you had a bad day, he would make your day into a good day.”
Morze said she’d see Zachariah outside local grocery stores some days, trying to hustle up some extra money for the household by loading customers’ bags into their cars in hopes of a tip. On the day of the crash that claimed his life, he was reportedly headed out to salvage scrap metal to help the family make ends meet.
“It’s frustrating because the morning of [the crash], he was walking his dogs, laughing, hugging my son, and was ready to go to school,” Morze said. “He was asking his mom to stay home to help make money to help his family.
“He was doing everything he could to get his life together,” she said.
Morze is equally saddened by the intensity of the tragedy that befell the Foster family as she is upset about the other lives that have been lost near that same intersection.
She expressed frustration that there seems to have been little done to make the area safer for pedestrian activity, especially given the volume of vehicle traffic there.
“Collingswood is a walking and biking community, and that’s great,” she said.
“But I really want to try and do something to get lights to help with pedestrians crossing the street.
“Zach’s not the only one who died on the White Horse Pike in Collingswood,” Morze said.
“It’s a very tragic experience for everybody involved.”
Morze also singled out the good Samaritans who stopped in the moments after the crash to attempt to revive Zachariah with CPR, and who were with him in his final moments.
“I want to really thank them,” she said. “I don’t know who they are, and they’re great citizens, and we need more people like them.”
Despite the tragedy, Collingswood Mayor Jim Maley said there’s little the borough can do to mitigate the dangers around the type of circumstances that led to Zachariah’s death.
The borough has installed signage and a pedestrian crosswalk connecting Collingswood High School to Knight Park, as well as lighting along Collings Avenue. However, the White Horse Pike is a county road, and Collingswood lacks any jurisdiction to make safety improvements there.
Maley said that Collingswood is “bumping up enforcement” of traffic laws, and called for drivers to be sure they’re following the rules of the road.
“You’ve heard me talk at community forums about blaming other people for their bad driving,” he said. “Well, ‘them’ is ‘us.’”
While lamenting the seeming uptick in erratic behavior from motorists and pedestrians alike in the borough — from speeding to blowing stop signs to parking vehicles on pedestrian bump-outs — the mayor said that drivers who pull around stopped vehicles in the roadway are harder to corral.
“I don’t know a traffic calming device that fixes that,” he said.
Chief Carey urged all travelers in the borough to take note of their surroundings and be mindful of others in the vicinity.
“Pay attention,” he said. “Whether you’re on foot, driving, or riding a bike, take your time, and get there safely.”
A viewing for Zachariah Foster will be held from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. September 30 at the Carl Miller Funeral Home in Camden City, with a funeral service to follow immediately thereafter. A fundraiser has been organized to help the family bear the unexpected financial costs of their loss.
On September 23, the Foster family has planned a balloon release in honor of Zachariah’s life at the corner of the White Horse Pike and Collings Avenue, where he was killed. In the event of inclement weather, the release will be held at 1723 Ferry Avenue in Camden City.
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