Local News

SUV hits brother, sister crossing road to get on school bus

Posted October 2, 2014 7:50 a.m. EDT
Updated October 2, 2014 10:22 p.m. EDT

— A 10-year-old boy and his 5-year-old sister were seriously injured early Thursday morning in a hit-and-run as they were getting on a school bus in the Wilson County community of Sims - the third such incident in two weeks.

Lt. Jeff Gordon, a spokesman for the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, said German Arroyo-Correa and Areli Arroyo-Correa – a fourth-grader and kindergartner at Rock Ridge Elementary School – were taken to WakeMed in Raleigh, where they were listed in serious condition Thursday afternoon.

The driver of the red Ford Explorer that hit them, Marcos Santiaga Bautista, 27, of Sims, was later found and arrested.

He was jailed under a $30,000 bond on charges of felony hit-and-run, felony passing a stopped school bus, driving without a license, failure to register a motor vehicle and displaying fictitious registration.

Gordon said there were no indications that alcohol or weather were factors in the wreck.

Investigators said the school bus had stopped outside the children's home around 6:50 a.m. and had activated its stop arm and caution lights for the siblings to cross the road when the Explorer, traveling in the opposite direction, hit the children as they crossed the street.

The driver then fled the scene, and Wilson County sheriff's deputies found him and the SUV about a mile way behind a tobacco barn.

"The troopers did a fantastic job. As soon as we got the call, troopers located evidence from that vehicle and immediately started looking for the vehicle," Gordon said.

No other children were on the bus at the time.

"We are collaborating with law enforcement and ask that you keep these students and their families in your thoughts today," a Wilson County Schools spokeswoman said in a statement.

Thursday's accident is the third in two weeks involving young students waiting for the bus.

Michael Burgess Jr., 11, is recovering from his injuries after a 16-year-old driver hit him Tuesday morning when, she said, she didn't see a stopped bus in southern Wake County because of fog.

Keith Jones Jr., of Wendell, was killed Sept. 23 after a man on his way to work hit the 13-year-old, who was waiting for the bus outside his house.

While there have been efforts in recent years to improve school bus safety, accidents and deaths continue, said Ben Matthews, director of Safe and Healthy Schools Support Division with the state Department of Public Instruction.

"A safe school bus is not going to stop a driver that's not paying attention," he said.

Matthews is afraid such accidents will only continue due to budget cuts.

"That will be a recurring theme across the state because we have had to consolidate routes, shorten routes," he said.

Gordon said the key is for drivers to pay attention and stop when a bus has activated its lights and stop arm – and for parents to teach their children how to cross the road.

"Just because the bus is stopped and the arms are activated, does not mean the motoring public is going to stop as well," he said.