On Friday a teenager was struck and killed as he crossed the road a few feet from his home to catch a school bus in Lancaster, Calif. Gage Rossi, 14, a freshman at East Side High School, said goodbye to his mother just seconds before he was run over at 6 a.m., when it was still pitch dark.
His mother, Laura, described the horror of discovering her son lying in the road after a neighbor who witnessed the accident knocked on her door and told her of the accident.
“I just put my coat on him, talked to him, told him his mom was there. He wasn’t alone,” the grieving mother told the local ABC station.
The L.A. County Coroner Department confirmed the boy died at the scene.
Parents Laura Hafner and Dean Rossi told reporters they believe this terrible tragedy could have been prevented. Laura noted that she had called the school transportation department “several times” to request that the bus pick up Gage next to their house so he would not have to cross a road with a posted speed limit of 55 mph.
“They just said that because they’d have to re-route to come down this side of the road instead of turning around, that there was no money in the budget and because it would cost extra time and extra gas,” she said.
The teen was walking across Avenue J to board the bus, which had stopped at the rural area pick-up spot, when he was hit by a 2014 Kia Forte just east of 140th Street East, stated California Highway Patrol Officer Jeremy Picker. He added that the boy was not in a crosswalk.
Picker said it was not yet known whether the school bus had activated its stop arm and flashing lights, but they were inspected and appeared to be in working order.
Gage is the seventh child who has been hit and killed near their bus stop this school year. Of this number, six students were crossing the road when struck by a passing motorist, according to STN’s independent research.
The CHP stated the 66-year-old driver stopped immediately after the accident. He had been traveling behind the school bus at 50 to 55 mph when the bus slowed and pulled to a stop on the right shoulder, Picker said. When he went to pass the bus, he struck the teen in the middle of the road. The driver had not been arrested at press time.
Antelope Valley Schools Transportation Agency released a statement Friday night that read, in part: “We will conduct a thorough in-house investigation and respond accordingly. We are also working cooperatively with CHP to assist in their investigation. It was a very tragic accident and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the student.”
A vigil for Gage, who is described as bright and funny, was held at Eastside High School at 11 a.m. on Feb. 15.