Coats, N.C. — A 12-year-old Harnett County boy died Thursday morning when he was hit by a van while trying to board a school bus near Coats, authorities said.
The wreck happened along N.C. Highway 27 near Bill Avery Road at 6:55 a.m. as Adam Kempf, a seventh-grade student at Coats-Erwin Middle School, tried to board a bus that was stopped with its stop arm out.
Kempf was taken to Betsy Johnson Hospital in Dunn, where he later died.
The North Carolina State Highway Patrol said Fernando Ortiz-Soto, of Sanford, was driving the van that hit Kempf and that he swerved to avoid the child.
Ortiz-Soto, whom immigration officials placed on a detainer to determine his legal status, was charged with death by motor vehicle and driving without a license. He was jailed under a $50,000 bond.
The cause of the wreck is still under investigation, but alcohol and speed were not factors, according to authorities.
The boy's mother, Sharon Kempf, said he was the youngest of five children and was a mature child who exceled in school and loved to read.
On Wednesday night, she said, he had been talking about how he wanted to lead the country when he grew up.
"He said he was going to be president, and he would make gas 99 cents a gallon," Sharon Kempf said.
She and his sister were on the front porch watching her son at the bus stop, she said, and, at first, thought the van blew a tire.
"I watch him cross the street every morning," Sharon Kempf said. "I never thought, I never dreamed that anything like this could happen to my baby."
"When he started going in the street, he said, 'I'll see you when I get home, and the next thing I remember is that sound," she added.
Adam Kempf's sister, Pamela Kempf, also saw the wreck.
"He didn't see it coming at all. He had no idea. I didn't see it until it happened," she said.
What she did see were her little brother's books in the road.
"I called out his name, thinking maybe he just dropped them, maybe he got scared, maybe he got out of (the way)," she said. "I called out his name, and he didn't answer me."
Patricia Harmon-Lewis, a spokeswoman for Harnett County Schools, said the bus was taking children to Coats-Erwin Middle School at the time of the wreck.
Twenty-five children were on board at the time, and they were taken to school by another bus and met by a crisis team, Harmon-Lewis said.
Parents were notified about the wreck and were given the option to take their children home for the day.