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Family, friends come together to look at new safety improvements on trail where loved ones died

Temporary solar-powered lights and fences were installed along the trail near Rainey Street ahead of South by Southwest in an effort to improve safety.

AUSTIN, Texas — Family and friends came together Friday night to walk the trail near Rainey Street to see temporary changes made by the City of Austin to help improve the lighting and safety of the area at night.

Loved ones such as Jason John and Martin Gutierrez were pulled from Lady Bird Lake – years apart – after both disappeared on Rainey Street and somehow ended up in the water.

John died in February. Gutierrez died in 2018.

Four solar-powered lights and fencing with warning signs were installed along the trail on Friday. In a memo, the City and the Parks and Recreation Department announced they decided to push the temporary solution ahead of South by Southwest (SXSW).

Friends of John noted the trail was still dark even with the temporary lighting, but said it was better than none at all.

"The lighting – I still think I need to learn more about some of the road bumps they hit with the tree canopies and such. So where Jason was last seen, unfortunately, it's still really, really dark right now, but there are four lights up and we're thrilled to see them starting coming up," said Josh Gale, John's friend and former roommate, who walked the trail on Friday.

Mitchell Gutierrez, Martin's older brother, echoed a similar message about the lighting, but said he would continue to fight for more change.

Earlier on Friday, KVUE caught up with Gutierrez before the walk on the trail. He said he has a newly formed bond with John's family. He immediately stepped in to reach out and try to help once he heard the news of John's disappearance.

"After a 13-hour shift, I put a jacket and a neon on and I went and walked around trying to search for Jason myself. You know, it was so different. It was so different because I would walk the trail, but now I was looking for another body and that messed me up entirely," he said.

Although the pain and loss remain, Gutierrez is hopeful that even with the smallest change, temporary or not, the voice of many families who have demanded change on this trail is finally being heard.

"I'll take it. I'll take change finally. So, like I said, his death won't go in vain," Gutierrez said tearfully. 

City officials have mentioned they have a more permanent plan in place, which is set to start in June 2023, to install hard-wired lights, cameras and fencing.

Kelsey Sanchez on social media: Facebook | Twitter  

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