Driver backs into toddler

Durham child dies in driveway

Staff WriterSeptember 30, 2006 

— A mother suffered perhaps the worst trauma of her life Friday: She witnessed her toddler being struck and killed by an SUV in her driveway.

Justin Raul Cisneros Saracho would have turned 2 years old in two weeks.

The incident occurred at 2:59 p.m. Friday as Justin played at 2609 Holloway St.

Maria Teresa Contreras Santos, 32, was backing into the driveway in her 1991 Ford Explorer when the toddler ran behind the sport utility vehicle and its right rear tire struck him, police said. The child suffered a blow to the head and died at the scene. Santos was not injured.

Santos lives in a home directly behind Justin's, and the residences share the driveway. Neither alcohol nor speed was a factor in the incident, police said. No charges were filed Friday, but the incident remained under investigation.

Children being struck by vehicles in driveways is not uncommon. A 7-year-old boy was killed in Holly Springs by an SUV in August. In August 2005, a 16-month-old boy was killed during a Raleigh party. In Durham, a 19-month-old boy was killed by a church van in 2003, and a 3-year-old girl was struck by a car in 2000.

After Friday's incident, police briefly closed one lane of Holloway Street in each direction in front of the East Durham residence. As motorists passed, the victim's mother sobbed loudly while a Durham police officer consoled her.

A woman and a man hugged behind her. Others were standing near the mother and on the left side of the home as a teenager sat near the front door. Yellow police tape cordoned off both front yards where 10 vehicles were parked.

Such incidents stem from heart-breaking accidents, not wrongdoing, police said. In the four similar deaths Durham Police Sgt. Laird Evans has seen in his 21 years of service, there were no criminal charges, he said.

Evans warned residents to keep track of where their children play, especially if they live near busy roads. "It's an accident, and unfortunately a small child died," he said.

(News researcher Brooke Cain contributed to this report.)

Staff writer Stanley B. Chambers Jr. can be reached at 956-2426 or stan.chambers@newsobserver.com.

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