The Rowan-Salisbury School System in Salisbury, N.C., is mourning the loss of a high school student who was fatally struck by an oncoming vehicle as he crossed the road to his waiting school bus.
Emergency personnel, family members and district staff were immediately on the scene of the accident, which occurred at 6:35 a.m. Eastern on Thursday. The victim was identified as Makinzy Jordan Smith, 17.
School district spokeswoman Rita Foil confirmed the boy was a junior at West Rowan High School. She said grief counselors would be available today to assist students at the school.
There were about 20 students aboard the school bus who witnessed the accident, according to news reports.
Another witness, James Cottrell, who was sitting two cars behind the school bus, told a local paper the bus driver had extended the stop arm and turned on the flashing lights. Cottrell said it appeared the Honda Civic did not slow down as it approached from the opposite direction, and struck the boy. The witness called 911 and received instructions from dispatchers to perform CPR, but his efforts were not successful.
The Honda driver, Barbara Harrison Smith, 57, has been charged with felony passing a stopped school bus causing death, according to the North Carolina Highway Patrol. It remains unclear whether Smith was driving faster than the posted speed limit of 55 mph. N.C. Highway Patrol First Sgt. F.C. Ferguson said a specialist who reconstructs crashes would determine the exact cause and speed.
Smith was taken from the scene by the Highway Patrol to the Rowan County Detention Center and given a $1,000 bond. She will make her first appearance in court Oct. 21.
The Rowan-Salisbury school district released the following statement later in the day:
"It is with heartfelt sadness that we confirm the tragic loss of one of our West Rowan High School students that was fatally injured early this morning while attempting to cross a two-lane highway to board a school bus. The bus was completely stopped, with red lights flashing and the stop arm fully extended.
Our district has conveyed to the student’s family support as they process through this painful time.
This student was in the WRHS cabinet making/wood working class. His strengths were in writing and his teachers said he was very artistic. He was always eager to learn and was curious in nature. He also enjoyed 50’s music. He was involved with JROTC, up until this year.
Our district’s Crisis Intervention Team arrived on the West Rowan High campus shortly after the incident occurred. A team of approximately 10 counselors were available to meet with individual students or group of students for help and guidance as they learned of the tragic loss of their friend. The crisis team will be available to assist students, staff and parents for as long as necessary.
We are very appreciative of our local law enforcement and emergency personnel as they responded to the accident this morning. We are also appreciate of the media working with us as the facts were being gathered and reported.
Over 190 school buses make over 14,000 stops to deliver over half of the district's students to and from school each school day. Rowan-Salisbury has approximately 20,000 students. It is our continued hope that as a community we will heighten our awareness in realizing that it is everyone's responsibility to look out for our children. If a school bus is in sight, you can be assured that children are close by."