Driver Could Not Have Avoided Hitting Student, Police Say
The driver of a car that struck a Bentonville student Thursday likely could not have avoided the accident, said Chief Jon Simpson with the Bentonville Police Department on Friday.
“We believe this is simply truly an accident that likely would’ve been difficult or impossible to avoid in any way on the driver’s part,” he said.
There is no crosswalk on Central Avenue where the child was struck by a car, Simpson said.
Geddon Kennedy, 12, remained in serious condition Saturday. He was upgraded from critical to serious Friday, according to a Mercy Hospital official in Springfield, Mo.
Schools have made counselors and teachers available to students in the wake of the accident, according to a letter sent to parents from the Bentonville School District.
“The Bentonville Public Schools Administration and staff of Washington Junior High School regret to inform you that…a tragic car/pedestrian accident occurred after school,” states a letter sent to parents Friday.
The letter goes on to encourage parents to teach students pedestrian and traffic laws, as well as talk to their children about road safety.
“Let’s encourage them to take ownership not only for their safety but for the safety of their friends,” it states.
Superintendent Michael Poore also encouraged pedestrian and driver awareness in busy traffic.
“You can’t be too defensive as a driver. You can’t be too careful as a pedestrian,” Poore said.
The accident happened at approximately 3:46 p.m. near the intersection of East Central Avenue and Northeast Brookhaven Court. The boy ran between a Jeep Wrangler and a Bentonville school bus, witnesses said.
Kennedy was airlifted to Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Mo. after sustaining traumatic injuries, according to emergency crews.
The seventh-grader from Washington Junior School was rushed to Northwest Medical Center in Bentonville before being airlifted to Missouri.
Police say the white Nissan Altima that hit Kennedy was driven by Stephanie Reese, 30.
Carolyn Haag heard the accident and stayed with the boy until an ambulance arrived.
“I heard a squeal and seen a lady in a white Nissan pull up, and she jumped out and she was screaming, ‘I hit him. I hit him,’” Haag said. “I just ran over to the little boy laying on the ground and I held his little head and kept telling him he was going to be OK.”
The driver of a nearby Bentonville Public Schools bus called 911.
“When the child was hit, he kind of was pushed back, thrown back toward our school bus and our school bus was really the first to activate the response system,” said Superintendent Michael Poore.
The accident marked the second time in exactly two weeks that a Bentonville student has been hospitalized after being struck by a vehicle. Megan Zandra Davis, 17, was airlifted to Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Mo., on Oct. 4 after a school bus hit her while she crossed a crosswalk at the intersection of 14th and P streets. Davis is in serious condition.
Her father, Tom Davis, said in a text message to 5NEWS on Thursday, “Our prayers go out to the child and family.”
The timing of the two incidents, within two weeks of each other, is not lost on Poore.
“It’s numbing to have to think about this again and have our community have to think about it and have a parent that has to go through this again, a driver that has to go through this again,” Poore said. “You can put yourself in everybody’s shoes and you feel god-awful about it.”
Fawn Kazmierczak, who lives on Jay Court near the accident scene, said she heard sirens about 4 p.m., went outside and saw the boy being put by emergency personnel onto a backboard to be loaded into an emergency vehicle. She said the boy had lost a shoe and was not moving.
Kazmierczak said the boy had been struck by a white SUV while attempting to cross Central Avenue. Central is a crowded thoroughfare that doesn’t have crosswalk protection at that location, she said. Kazmierczak said there are crosswalks across Central at Northeast J. Street and Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, both of which are several blocks away.
Three school buses were lined up behind the accident scene, but none appeared to have been involved in the accident, Kazmierczak said.
She said the driver of the bus closest to the accident appeared to be “freaked out” about having witnessed the incident and let the children out of her bus so they could board a different bus.
Kazmierczak said many school children often cross Central Avenue every afternoon on their way from from Washington Junior High and another nearby school, Apple Glen Elementary at 1801 Northeast Brave Lane. Washington Junior High is at 1501 Wildcat Way, about a block from the accident site.
Kazmierczak said her child is a seventh-grade student at Washington Junior High. Even though she lives about a block from the school, she picks her child up at the end of every school day because Central Avenue is too dangerous, she said.
5NEWS has contacted Mayor Bob McCaslin for comment since Davis was hit by a bus, but he has either been out of the office or has not returned phone calls.