Families and school communities in three states are grieving the loss of three children, two of whom were struck and killed by school buses. So far criminal charges have been filed against just one of the drivers involved in these tragic accidents.
Tuesday morning a school bus driver in Universal City, located near San Antonio, Texas, hit one of his student riders in front of her apartment building and did not realize what happened until hours later. Steve Linscomb with the Judson Independent School District confirmed that 6-year-old Jada Craft was struck as she waited for her bus with a male relative. He tried to get help from passing drivers but ended up taking the victim back to her home, where she later died, according to Universal City Police.
Police said the first-grader may have been running late and attempting to catch the bus when she was fatally struck, apparently as the bus took off around 6:30 a.m., when it was still dark out. Investigators are expected to review the bus’ surveillance cameras to figure out exactly what happened. At least 15 student riders were onboard during this incident, police added.
Another 6-year-old was hit and killed by a school bus at Chattanooga Valley Elementary School in Flinstone, Ga., on Monday morning. Authorities said the kindergartner, whose name hasn’t yet been released, had just exited his school bus when it rolled forward and hit him. Reportedly, the bus was turning in a circular area, which is separated from the parent drop-off lane. The coroner confirmed the boy died instantly.
School officials helped Georgia State Patrol investigators obtain videos of the incident for analysis, drawn from both school surveillance and the monitoring systems on the bus. Officials will also be providing maintenance logs for the bus involved and all personnel records on the bus driver, who remains unnamed by GSP authorities.
A dozen counselors district-wide joined Chattanooga Valley Elementary counselor Jose Jimenez and his therapy dog, Zorro, in consoling classmates, teachers and faculty. Walker County Schools Superintendent Damon Raines said the counselors would remain at the school the rest of the week.
Counselors were also dispatched to Port St. Lucie High School in Florida on Tuesday after 18-year-old Dayanna Andrea Gil passed away Monday night. Gil was struck by a car while walking to her school bus stop on Monday, April 7, and the driver did not stop. Police said the teen was run over at approximately 6:45 a.m., before sunrise, as she walked to her bus stop. She was flown to St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach for treatment.
After Gil succumbed to her injuries Monday, police arrested Ivette L. Nieves-Barsuglia, 46, of Port St. Lucie at her home without incident. Barsuglia is facing two charges, vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of an accident with personal injury. She has since been released from the St. Lucie County Jail on $30,000 bail.
In Keystone Heights, Fla., 18-year-old Shane Savoy was hit by a pickup truck while walking to his bus stop last Friday and later died from his injuries. The Clay County Sheriff’s Office told WOKV the teen was walking with a female classmate on the edge of the road when the truck hit them about 6:30 a.m.
Police said the truck driver did not see the pair in time to avoid striking them. Visibility may have been limited because it was still dark.
Seventeen-year-old Elin Cornett was treated for minor injuries at the hospital and released. Savoy was listed in critical condition at noon and then passed away that afternoon.
"The young man may have actually pushed the young lady out of the way," said CCSO spokesperson Mary Justino.
She noted that the driver, who has been cooperative, would probably not face any charges.
Every year a dozen students are fatally struck by passing motorists while waiting at or crossing toward their bus stops, with the majority of accidents occurring in the dark predawn hours, according to STN’s independent research. A smaller number of students, about three or four each year, are killed by their own school bus.
Check the May edition of School Transportation News magazine for a comprehensive report on student fatality data provided by the Kansas Department of Education and NHTSA.