Edgecombe County Public Schools and the community are mourning the loss of an elementary school student who was struck by a pickup truck and killed early Thursday.
G.W. Bulluck Elementary School first-grader Janell Simmons, 7, was waiting to be picked up for school with her three siblings at 6:45 a.m. at a bus stop on N.C. 43.
Janell was on the opposite side of the road across from her siblings for an unknown reason, school officials said, when a school bus and a 2002 Ford pickup truck were heading toward each other on the two-lane road.
School officials said the bus was not the one picking up Janell and her siblings.
In her attempt to re-cross the road, the first-grader was struck by the truck, school officials confirmed.
“The driver was paying attention to the bus to see if it was going to stop. He was looking toward the left and never saw the 7-year-old dart out across the road,” Edgecombe County Public Schools Superintendent John Farrelly said. “It was a significant impact, and (Janell) was thrown about 35 feet into a ditch on the side of the road.”
After emergency services personnel arrived on scene, Janell was taken to Nash General Hospital where she later died at approximately 7:30 a.m.
“This is a significant and stunning tragedy for the entire community. It’s hard to fathom,” Farrelly said. “In hindsight, I don’t believe the school district could have done anything to prevent (the accident). It certainly provides us an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of safety and staying out of the road.”
The driver of the pickup truck, Eddie Suggs, will not face any charges from the incident, N.C. Highway Patrol authorities said.
First Sgt. Jeff Gordon, spokesman for N.C. Department of Public Safety, said the approaching school bus was not stopped, loading or discharging students at the time of the accident.
Speed was not a factor in the collision, Gordon said.
Both Farrelly and G.W. Bulluck Elementary School Principal Paula Flythe joined the family at the hospital and then returned to the elementary school.
The Simmons family had five children in the school district, including four at G.W. Bulluck Elementary and one at West Edgecombe Middle School, school officials said.
A crisis team was sent to the elementary school to inform teachers about the incident, provide counseling and give advice on how to handle questions or reactions from students.
Edgecombe County Public Schools sent out a districtwide ConnectEd call as well as a letter to the parents at G.W. Bulluck Elementary and West Edgecombe Middle schools notifying parents of the situation and preparing them for helping students deal with the grieving process.