Kymora Christian, 7, Killed After Being Struck By Vehicle at White Star Drive Bus Stop
FlaglerLive | October 7, 2015
Last Updated: 5:21 p.m.
Seven-year-old Kymora Christian, a second-grader at Wadsworth Elementary school, was struck and killed by a vehicle on Whippoorwill Drive at White Star Drive and Winter Haven Courtin Palm Coast this morning at 8:13 a.m. White Star turns into Winter Haven Court on the opposite side of Whippoorwill.
Kymora was in too critical a state to be flown to Halifax Hospital in Daytona Beach–and in fact died at the scene, but was pronounced dead at Florida Hospital Flagler later in the morning.
A school bus was at the scene of the collision, just past yellow police tape, but was not involved. Kymora was crossing Whippoorwill “in a northbound fashion,” a Florida Highway Patrol spokesman said, when a white Lincoln Navigator going east on Whippoorwill struck her.
Melissa Meeth, 36, a W-Section resident, was driving the Navigator. Her 11-year-old son was in the car. Neither was injured. “That driver has obviously remained at the scene and is cooperating,” the FHP spokesman said.
There are no indications of alcohol or narcotics involved, the spokesman said. Meeth voluntarily provided a blood sample at the scene.
Kymora’s mother was immediately at the scene after her daughter was struck, and went with her to Florida Hospital Flagler.
Kymora was waiting for the school bus when the incident took place. Other students were with her, and were able to provide statements to FHP, as was the driver of the school bus, who arrived at the scene immediately after the collision took place and before emergency responders arrived.
Audio: The 911 Calls:
Dispatch notes through the sheriff’s office indicate that the 911 caller was Meeth herself, who called in the collision at 8:13 a.m. and told the 911 dispatchers that the girl had “darted in front of her.” (An FHP report on the crash places the time of the collision at 8:07 a.m.) The girl immediately after the collision was not moving, not breathing, had severe head injuries, and there was blood all over the driveway, 911 dispatchers relayed to responders. Her mother was reported at the scene in less than three minutes. Chest compressions were started by a sheriff’s deputy at the scene and Air One, the emergency helicopter, was put on standby briefly, but then called off when the decision was made to take the child to Florida Hospital Flagler.
In a nearly seven-minute 911 call, Meeth is heard progressively losing her breath and composure as she grapples with the shock of the collision with the child. “I hit a child, she darted out in front of my car,” she tells the dispatcher. “She pulled right in front of my car,” she says, repeating that several times. “She’s not moving… She came right out in front of me, I was looking and everything.” Within the first minute of the call Meeth tells the 911 dispatcher that Kymora was not breathing: “Please hurry, oh my God I can’t believe I killed somebody’s child,” she says, breaking down.
The dispatcher tries to calm her down. Meeth tells her she was driving the speed limit. “I don’t go fast during the day,” she says. “I’ve got my kid in the car.” At first she tells the dispatcher she doesn’t want to walk toward the police, but the dispatcher urges her to talk to them. “Oh my god I don’t think she’s breathing,” she says again, and soon reveals a detail not yet noted by authorities: “There was another car and I couldn’t swerve,” she says. She refers to the other car moments later, but what she says is difficult to understand.
A shorter call to 911 was placed by a neighbor who went the point of collision. She tells the dispatcher she knows CPR, and gets ready to perform it, but she says, losing her composure, “you can see all the blood coming from her head. I don’t think she’s breathing.” She hangs up as the sound of sirens grows louder.
Whippoorwill was shut down in both directions around that area. The Florida Highway Patrol and the Sheriff’s Office were at the scene, as were several Flagler County school officials, including Safety Director Winnie Oden.
The school district’s incident response team was alerted, and counselors were mobilized at Wadsworth. It wasn’t long before news of the girl’s death trickled out to officials.
Oliva, Wadsworth Principal John Fanelli, and School Board Chairman Colleen Conklin met with the family of the victim at the hospital to offer their condolences earlier. All three then went to Wadsworth Elementary, where they spent the rest of the day with students and faculty.
“On behalf of the school and the school district, our condolences go out to the family, and all the families involved,” Oliva said just before 2 p.m., when he was still at Wadsworth. “Everybody here, their heart is pouring out to the families that are involved.” Oliva had spent the morning and early afternoon overseeing the process of informing faculty and staff and tending to families and students.
“Everybody is in shock,” the superintendent said. “When you hear this kind of news at this magnitude, this level of tragedy, you can’t help being in shock. But I can tell you, the administration, the faculty and staff have really pulled together. Wadsworth is a family. It doesn’t matter if you’re a student an employee, a teacher.” (It was at Wadsworth, coincidentally, that Oliva had had his first internship as a teacher, and where he was first principal.)
“Flagler County is a small community,” Oliva said, “and any time we face a tragedy like this the ripple effect is going to be felt throughout the community. It’s important for folks to know we have a support system and a network in place to meet the needs not only for our students but adults as well, and if anyone is struggling, we have resources, we want to help, and they should make sure they rely on those folks.”
The school day itself at Wadsworth was maintained as close to normal as possible. “We still try to maintain the highest level of normalcy no matter what the event or the tragedy is,” Oliva said. “Right now it’s really tougher on the adults because they understand the magnitude of this. Children who are around 7 generally don’t.” He added, “These are adult conversations you’re having with little kids.”
Kymora Christian had been at Wadsworth since kindergarten. She was in second grade. So she was well known by several members of the faculty and of course the administration.
The 11-year-old boy who was in the Navigator attends a different school.
Wadsworth faculty will meet at the end of the day with Oliva, Oden, Fanelli and others to plan the rest of the week. “I don’t think you go into those efforts with a predetermination of what the outcome is going to be,” Oliva said. “We also have to respect the wishes of the family as well. So it’s hard to say if there’s a predetermined out come on that.”
“Counselors will be on hand for rest of day but at this point most students aren’t fully aware of what has taken place except for those that were at the scene,” Conklin said around noon. Counselors were informing faculty of the morning’s developments, and working with the families of students who had been at the bus stop. For the most part, classes were continuing and there was no intention of altering the day’s class schedule.
This is the third incident involving a child being struck by a vehicle since school started in Flagler County, one of which involved a school bus. In those first two incidents, the students were on their bikes. Injuries were minor.
Saxon’s towing of Bunnell towed the Navigator–which bore a “Helping Sea Turtles Survive” specialty license plate–at 11 a.m. The vehicle is to be impounded at least for three days as the FHP investigation continues. The crash investigator is FHP’s Christopher Conrad. The homicide investigator is Cpl. Leonard Yuknavage.
School Board member Andy Dance reflected the feeling of a lot parents as he reacted to the tragedy. “I’m just sick, I physically feel terrible as a parent, it’s the absolute worst nightmare,” he said. He heard of the incident this morning after just reaching Rymfire Elementary school. He was taking part in Walk to School Day, and had walked to Rymfire, collecting students along the way, with Paul St. Francis, the soon-retiring principal there. He had even re-Tweeted a note about being on the look-out for children along the roads. “Today was a day about safety,” he said.
“It just made me think of so many thoughts,” Dance said, having difficulty even then completing his thoughts from the shock of the news. “I have a teenager who drives now–apprehension of them every day going out and driving. It stresses you every single day.”
“I just can’t imagine the parents, and the parent who was driving,” Dance said of the parents’ state of mind.