PITTSBURG -- Two-year-old Ameeya McDonald was chasing a ball into a suburban Pittsburg street when an SUV slammed into the bubbly toddler two months ago. She died after three days in intensive care.
On the same day she was hit, another SUV struck and killed 12-year-old Burgess Hu as he was riding his bicycle to school in rural Byron.
The two were among the latest and youngest Bay Area victims of a worldwide epidemic, one borne not of disease but of a deadly combination of steel, chrome, speed and human distraction. Citing an annual count of nearly 1.24 million dead, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon marked Sunday as the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.
Now, one grieving Contra Costa County family is trying to do something to lessen the toll.
"This was a preventable death," said Thomas McDonald, Ameeya's father. "If we can prevent half of these deaths, other families won't have to grieve like this."
Her parents say Ameeya, who would have turned 3 next month, had been well-schooled in the dangers of walking into the street but nevertheless rushed after an older cousin who was retrieving an errant ball. No speed bumps or signs control the speed on the small suburban street.
McDonald organized a gathering of several dozen family members and friends at Pittsburg's East County Boys & Girls Club for a kids basketball tournament and memorial to mark the worldwide commemoration Sunday.
Featuring photographs and keepsakes of Ameeya and other loved ones, the event underscored how much traffic tragedies can harm just one extended family.
The memorials spanned several decades: a cousin killed in 1989 on his way home to Pittsburg from the Summer Jam concert in Mountain View; a 39-year-old janitor -- Ameeya's great-uncle -- who died in 1991 after veering off the old Highway 4 to avoid hitting a crashed motorcycle; a 16-year-old high school student who died in her boyfriend's passenger seat; and 75-year-old Margarita "Mita" Bermudez, who, like Ameeya, simply walked into a residential street.
It was late on a November afternoon in 2004, and Bermudez had just finished cooking sweet potatoes and the setting sun blocked the driver's vision, family members said.
No simple cause links road deaths, but Ameeya's family says there are ways to make them less likely to happen.
"It's a world problem," McDonald said, "but America's behind the curve."
Ameeya's family plans to meet next month with Contra Costa County Supervisor Federal Glover. They also hope to talk with their congressman, Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez.
Among McDonald's goals is pushing for legislation that would force or encourage carmakers to add new accident-prevention technology to American vehicles. European carmakers have already taken the lead in beginning to deploy the technology, which helps warn drivers about oncoming objects they cannot yet see, he said.
Danee Lumbre, Ameeya's mother, sets her sights on raising local awareness.
With a stop sign as its icon, the family has named its new group the Stop Stop Stop Ameeya McDonald Foundation, after the girl's practice of shouting "Stop! Stop! Stop!" when she had something important to say and did not want to be interrupted.
"Our purpose is to get this fund together, get speed bumps in neighborhoods that need it," Lumbre said. "Even if you follow the law, the handbook, there's things you need to look out for."