Roadside shrine a reminder for motorists to slow down

Theresa Savaikie adds a sign to the shrine for her son at the intersection of Seco Canyon Road and Bouquet Canyon Road in Saugus on Thursday, December 20, 2018. Dan Watson/The Signal
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As Christmas trees go, the spindly leafless sapling between the sidewalk and Bouquet Canyon Road at Seco Canyon Road might easily go unnoticed by motorists traveling through the busy intersection.

It’s the hope of the woman who decorated the tree with dangling snowflakes and soft lighting that it reminds drivers to slow down.

The tree is anchored by the year-round roadside memorial Teresa Savaikie maintains daily in honor of her 14-year-old son Wyatt, who was struck and killed by a man who sped through the intersection on July 16, 2015.

“I want people to slow down and remember what’s important,” she said Thursday, putting some last-minute touches on the tree and the rock-buttressed cross bearing her son’s name.

“I want no other family to have an empty chair at the table at Christmas,” she said, forcing back tears that have been a daily occurrence for more than two years.

“That’s my hope,” the Saugus mom said.

In the last few years, racked with daily pain, Savaikie has survived lyme disease, three bouts of cancer, and most recently, pneumonia.

But, when it comes to the death of her son, over something as needless, she said, as speeding, the struggle pales.

“The physical pain is almost a gift, next to losing Wyatt,” she said.

Decorating the tree in the hope that someone appreciates the loss of life due to careless driving makes her “feel happy.”

In August 2016, 74-year-old Ralph Steger was sentenced to 60 days in Los Angeles County jail after pleading no contest to misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter, speeding and running a red light.

Steger struck and killed Wyatt Savaikie with his car on July 16, 2015, while the boy was crossing the street in a marked crosswalk near Bouquet Canyon and Seco Canyon roads in Saugus.

“There is no room for driver error,” Savaikie said Thursday. “As they race to get to Central Park, or the high school or even the gym, they really (need to) pay attention to what they’re doing.”

“I would hate to see a family go through what I went through just because somebody couldn’t wait five minutes at a light,” she said.

“There’s not a day that goes by that there’s not a trigger to make the tears come,” she said, adding that she’s always been concerned about her kids’ safety when it comes to traffic.

“That’s why we bought our house on a cul-de-sac,” she said.

Savaikie wants “calming measures” built into roads such as Bouquet. She also wants drivers who break the law charged criminally.

“Until people are charged criminally, what difference is it going to make? Whether it’s speeding or texting while driving or drinking and driving,” she said.

As she spoke, Savaikie rearranged the stones at the base of the memorial cross and picked up string from around the base of the shrine, making sure the decorated tree is as pretty as it can be.

The tears were close when she spoke, she said, but she had a notion that held them back.

“If this serves to help save one life, then it’s worth it,” she said.

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Wyatt Savaikie.

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