An 11-year-old boy crossing Johnson Pond Road to get to a stopped school bus Tuesday morning was hit by a car driven by a 16-year-old who was unable to stop in time, the state Highway Patrol said.
Michael Burgess, who lives on Oak Park Drive on the west side of Johnson Pond Road, was crossing to get to the northbound bus headed for West Lake Middle School when he was struck by a southbound car driven by Lindsey Tight, 16, said Sgt. Michael Baker, a Highway Patrol spokesman.
Burgess was taken to WakeMed in Raleigh, where he was reported to be in fair condition. The boy’s grandmother, Margaret Burgess, said the child was moved to the pediatric intensive care unit after doctors determined he suffered a broken leg, broken ankle and several skull fractures.
“He’s doing OK,” Margaret Burgess said Tuesday afternoon. “He’s still in a lot of pain. They’re just trying to get him comfortable.”
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A state Highway Patrol accident reconstruction crew looked at the evidence, including skids marks that stretched over 25 feet before the collision and determined that Tight tried to stop, but apparently too late, Baker said.
The Highway Patrol announced Tuesday that Tight will be charged with failure to reduce speed and passing a stopped school bus.
The accident took place about 6:45 a.m. at the intersection of Johnson Pond Road and Oak Park Drive, near the entrance of the Oak Park Drive mobile home park.
Mary Seay, 31, was at the bus stop with her two children, Bryce and Daniel, in the morning fog. Seay had parked her car in the front yard of Laura Cassiano, who lives across the street from the school bus stop.
Michael Burgess, with a book bag strapped to his shoulders, was squatting down at the edge of Cassiano’s yard, waiting for the bus. Bryce Seay and another girl, sixth-grader Meredith Navarro, 11, were standing near Burgess when the bus arrived.
“The kids were moving slow,” Seay said. “They waited like 20 or 30 seconds before they started walking to the bus.”
Seay said she turned her head for a split second, and when she turned around, “a car came out of nowhere.”
The bus driver told troopers the bus’s red lights were flashing and the stop arm had extended when Burgess began to cross the road.
Moments before the crash, Seay said, the bus driver started honking the horn to stop the oncoming driver.
“Meredith and Bryce jumped out the road before the car hit them,” Seay said.
Meredith’s mother, Dawn Navarro, works as a substitute teacher with Wake County Public Schools. She thinks Michael heard the honking bus horn and started walking faster because he thought the bus driver wanted the students to hurry up.
Cassiano was awakened Tuesday morning by “a big old boom” when the car struck Michael Burgess.
“I jumped up as soon as I heard it,” Cassiano said. “I knew it was one of the kids. I could hear him screaming, ‘My leg hurts.’”
Cassiano wondered how, even with the dense morning fog, the teen driver did not see “a big old yellow bus with the lights flashing?”
Seay said that after the car hit Michael, the boy’s foot got tangled underneath the vehicle, and he was briefly dragged before ending up on the hood of the car, then going airborne and landing in a ditch in front of Cassiano’s home.
Seay ran to the child. One of his orange sneakers had been wrenched off his foot. His book bag lay near him.
“When I first got to him, he was on his back, looking like he was trying to get up,” Seay said. “He was crying and screaming.”
Seay said Tight got out of her car and told her she did not see the bus sign. Then she went back to her car and sat inside until her parents arrived. Seay sat with the child and tried to calm him until paramedics arrived.
“Blood was everywhere,” Seay said. “Blood was coming out of his eyes, out of his nose. His knee was tore up. I had blood all over my clothes just sitting with him.”
Tight and a passenger in the car, her 12-year-old sister Olivia, were not injured.
Public school students have been at the center of several deadly accidents in recent weeks in Wake County. One week ago, 13-year-old Keith Jones, a Wendell Middle School student, died when a car struck him while he was waiting for a school bus in front of his home on Edgemont Road.
Efren Vances, 28, of Clayton was arrested later that day and charged with felony hit-and-run, misdemeanor death by a motor vehicle and driving without a license.
In addition to the accidents involving students waiting for a school bus, two other crashes resulted in the deaths of two Wake County high school students. Both crashes involved carloads of students on their way to school, and authorities say in both cases the drivers failed to yield to an oncoming vehicle while making a left turn.
The accidents prompted N.C. Secretary of Transportation Tony Tata to issue a statement Tuesday pledging to work with local officials to consider possible safety improvements at the site of the accidents.
Tata, the former superintendent of the Wake County Public School System, also said the Division of Motor Vehicles would work with state education officials and driving schools to review drivers education and safety messages.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of three young lives and the students injured in accidents on Wake County roads in the past two weeks,” Tata said. “One life lost is too many, and we will do all we can to help prevent future tragedies throughout the state.”
Dawn Navarro, the substitute teacher, said Tuesday’s accident on Johnson Pond Road could have been prevented.
Navarro said last year, buses that picked up students enrolled at Lincoln Heights Elementary School and Middle Creek Middle School pulled into the mobile home park. The youngsters boarded the buses at the nearby intersection of Oak Park and Oak Tree drives.
“It’s a safer spot. That little girl didn’t have to go through all of this,” Navarro said about the teen driver charged in the incident. “What’s a two-minute detour if it saves a kid’s life?”