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Child’s Death at Bus Stop Prompts Creation of Joint School-City Safety Committee

| October 14, 2015

school bus stop safety

The location of last week’s fatal accident on Whippoorwill, a collector road leading to Belle Terre Parkway. A roadside memorial to Kymora Christian had risen here, then been taken down. (c FlaglerLive)

Not long after 7-year-old Kemora Christian was killed at her bus stop in a collision with a driver on Whippoorwill Drive last week, Palm Coast City Council member Jason DeLorenzo called up Andy Dance, the school board member, to talk about student safety on city streets. It so happened that Dance had at that moment been drafting an email to DeLorenzo on the same subject.

When DeLorenzo approached Palm City Manager Jim Landon on the matter, Landon was just as eager to do something: the bus stop where Kymora was killed is also Landon’s granddaughter’s bus stop. (His granddaughter is older, she had already gone to school that day then the fatal collision took place.)

Through the weekend school district staff worked in conjunction with city staff to produce GIS or Geographic Information System maps they could use to frame their analyses. The two agencies have different GIS capabilities. So the district exported its own into the city’s system, and by Monday afternoon they had a combined product that could overlay every single one of the district’s 600 bus stops over the presence of street lights, locations next to public lands, and so on.

By Tuesday afternoon, a working committee of top officials gathered at city offices to brainstorm ideas and analyze the maps. The committee included DeLorenzo, Dance, Superintendent Jacob Oliva, Landon, School Safety Director Winnie Oden, District IT Director Ryan Diesing, a planner for the city and Cmdr. Mark Carman, who heads the Palm Coast precinct for the sheriff’s office.

“It was true brainstorming,” DeLorenzo said. “A good portion of the discussion had to do with can we get kids off busier streets and onto less busy streets where there’s less opportunity for them to get hurt. There has to be education with this as well. You see kids around town—well, they’re kids, but they do sit on the road sometimes, and I couldn’t think of anything worse.”

After the district explained the breadth of its daily busing operations, numerous general ideas were proposed, but nothing concrete yet. For example, moving children from bus stops at collector roads and onto more residential roads. (Whippoorwill Drive, where the fatal accident took place last week, is a collector road that leads to Belle Terre Parkway.) Drawing from his experience, DeLorenzo, a P-Section resident, said on Ponce de Leon students wait for buses at the corners of their drive, but the bus runs down Ponce de Leon to pick them up. Possibly, the students could be moved further into the neighborhood. “But what effect is that going to have on travel time?”  DeLorenzo asked. “Everyone thought that was a great idea. Don’t know if it can be done citywide, or are there just going to be select locations where that’ll work.”

Jason DeLorenzo. (© FlaglerLive)

Jason DeLorenzo. (© FlaglerLive)

Discussion also led to a better use of public lands or parcels as places where students could wait. There’s a bus stop at the corner of Pine Tree and Pine Grove, for example, yet one lot to the west, on Pine Grove, the city has a pump station with a driveway. Instead of waiting at the corner, perhaps the students could wait at the driveway of the pump station. “Those are some of the ideas that were thrown out there,” DeLorenzo said.

He acknowledged, however, that none of the three incidents involving students and vehicles so far this year—the fatal collision and two less serious collisions with students on bicycles—speak to a pattern that points to any one specific absence of safety measures. Even in Kymora’s case, investigators so far have pointed to a brief moment’s unexpected convergence of events that resulted in a tragic coincidence: Kymora darting across the street right at the moment when the driver of the SUV that struck her was passing by.

“The most immediate need is to get the word out about the street lighting program that the City sponsors,” Dance said in a Facebook note to his followers after the meeting. “If you spot a bus stop or intersection that does not have a light, anyone can request the light and the City will arrange for the installation. FPL owns and installs the light, but the City will pay for the installation and operating cost. Under a separate program, homeowners can contact FPL and request a light to be installed at their property and shining just on their property. The homeowner will be responsible for a monthly charge of $11 for the light.” (A Facebook page called Safer Streets in Palm Coast was established in the wake of the fatal accident.)

Dance described the meeting as reflecting “a lot of positive energy and unique ideas,” with more meetings to come. An actual date for subsequent meetings hasn’t been set.

“In less than a month’s time we will get everybody back together to discuss where we are and what’s next,” DeLorenzo said.

At the city council meeting Tuesday, DeLorenzo told his fellow council members that the effort would require considerable staff time. They agreed to support the effort.

14 Responses for “Child’s Death at Bus Stop Prompts Creation of Joint School-City Safety Committee”

  1. Rockee says:

    This may be a pain for a lot of folks, but may save a child’s life.

    Why doesn’t a company, make inexpensive florescent vests for children, like workmen wear. One size fits all type, to wear going to school and then coming home. It could easily fold up to almost nothing and go inside their back pack during school, time to come home, put them on.

    Once they start getting use to it, it’ll become habit and just may save a child’s life.

  2. blondee says:

    Lots are still relatively cheap. Buy some up, throw down some asphalt on a small area and VOILA! Bus stops! The busses could stop every six blocks instead of every two.

  3. scott says:

    Did you ever notice politicians fall all over themselves telling you how much work they do after a tragedy or during an election?

  4. cm says:

    Glad they are looking into this. I think parental supervision needs to be acknowledged as well. I understand parents work ( I do myself) but have someone walk the child to the bus stop even if that means hiring someone or taking turns with neighbors.

  5. palmcoastpioneers says:

    Fortunately Levitt & I.T.T. designed all the streets of ‘ The Palm Coast Project ‘ to minimize intersections / crossroads thereby trying to minimize *speeders* .

  6. Anonymous says:

    lack of sidewalks…..half the issue

    that’s the cities fault

  7. tulip says:

    Now this is what I like to see and read about—-our local leaders immediately getting together to put ideas together and solve a problem!! Good work.

  8. Lin says:

    Looking to improve safety is a good thing.

    Mentioned here is lights which would be owned by FPL but paid for monthly by homeowner $11.

    Our children should not be waiting for buses in the dark at all.
    Schedules should be adjusted do that this does not happen.
    Children’s safety should not depend on a homeowner request and not on $11/month.
    This is a community and school district responsibility!

  9. Glooby Gloob says:

    Education, both of drivers and the students, goes a long way, and doesn’t even cost much. More road signage, more PSAs alerting drivers to be careful.

  10. Ray Thorne says:

    Anonymous says: “lack of sidewalks…..half the issue

    that’s the cities fault”

    Didn’t seem to bother anyone when it came to buying their homes here…

  11. c marlow says:

    Agree with many suggestions, but may i suggest one more? Lets NOT put the clocks back an hour on Sunday November 1st. The morning streets would be so much safer if our children didn’t stand in the pitch dark. Daylight Savings Time is an old antiquated exercise for Farmers (or so we were told)…many Americans probably agree that it is time to look after our Children who are standing on the streets waiting for school busses at 6am, 7am and soon 8am in the dark. The Whole world adjusts lighting to accommodate Turtles, could we not afford the same respect to our children?
    My heart breaks for Kemora’s family and friends….so sad.
    Let’s start the dialogue of no more DST …..
    God Bless.

  12. Layla says:

    People will hate me for this one, but it works: speed bumps to slow down traffic in areas where school children wait to be picked up.

    Are they a nuisance? Yes, but they work. And the make the neighborhood safer for all.

  13. mom concerned even more now! says:

    My heart goes out to any parent who’s lost a child. xo When I was a child we had crossing guards on any major road as well as busy residential roads, most of them were volunteer’s some paid and were there for Grammar school students in the a.m and afternoon (we were not allowed to cross the street with out one’s assistance!!)

    . Today 10/15/2015 at about 4pm it happened .. This just happened to me and I’m shaking! Thank God I waited!! “I’m besides myself, I was stopped for a school bus, kids got off, a few waiting on the side of the road one girl waving a boy to cross (while lights flashing) he didn’t at the moment, girl started walking passed me on the right, buses lights stopped, I hesitated stepping on the gas… Bamm this boy darted across the street not more than a foot in front of my car!! I’m shaking like a leaf right now AND YES, I TALKED TO HIM EXPLAINING THAT HE NEEDS TO PAY MORE ATTENTION CROSSING THE STREET WE DON’T NEED ANOTHER CHILD HURT IN THIS TOWN. (what I said to him was more detailed explaining safety to him. he was all of about 8-9 yrs old)”

  14. Ken Dodge says:

    Time of incident given as 8:13 am so darkness was not a factor. Victim struck while darting out from side of street so bus stop not a factor. School Safety Director Winnie Oden is a seasoned administrator so would like to hear her assessment of the situation. Why not paint designated crosswalks at ALL intersections where school buses are located, regardless of whether the streets are collector roads or side streets? Then motorists would have a clue where kids could be expected and the kids would know exactly where it is safe to cross.

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