Michael Goforth: Community cries in wake of tragic accident involving St …

The community cries.

Because on Monday afternoon, shortly before 4 p.m., a St. Lucie County school bus carrying about 30 students from Frances K. Sweet Elementary School in Fort Pierce collided with a tractor-trailer at Okeechobee and Midway roads.

“It’s like the semi and the bus went up in the air simultaneously about, I don’t know, 10 to 20 feet it seemed,” said witness Robert Scott of Port St. Lucie. “The truck hit his brakes but there wasn’t enough distance. He was only going about 45, maybe 50, and he just plowed right into him and spun that bus around.”

Fourth-grader Ejaia Pagan, a student on the bus, said, “We heard a crash and the windows starting breaking and we went up in the air.”

More than a dozen students, some seriously injured, were taken to hospitals. One student died from the collision.

The community cries.

Parent Houston Rigel, the first person to enter the bus, said, “It was the weirdest, scariest. There wasn’t a child moving. There wasn’t a noise. It was just silent.”

Then, she said, “They started screaming and crying, and it was the worst sound you could ever imagine. It was like time was standing still.”

Scott said, “I went around to the back of the bus, opened up the door and there was just a bunch of screaming kids inside, kids laying everywhere, blood everywhere. There was a couple of the kids standing up. I took them down and placed them on the side of the grass.”

The community cries.

Authorities believe bus driver Albert Hazen, 56, who was injured in the crash himself, turned into the path of the truck.

Parent Wyndi Nissinoff said, “You put a child on a bus and assume they’re safe. It’s a tragedy. It’s frightening.”

Ejaia said, “Mr. Hazen, our bus driver, was like jumping up and down screaming, ‘No!’ and he was crying.”

Hazen’s wife, Ingrid, said, “I do know that my husband is hurting so deeply and he’s just torn up about this, and I know that he would never put their safety in harm’s way. Never, never, ever.”

And, she said, “The only message I have is our hearts go out to all the families, every one of them, and that I can’t imagine the hurt that parents are going through.”

The community cries.

Killed in the crash was 9-year-old Aaron Beauchamp of Port St. Lucie, who family members remembered as a lover of soccer, animals, art and roller coasters. His aunt, Jackie Ward, said, “He’s just a beautiful boy with a big, beautiful smile and big brown eyes that would melt your heart when you saw him.”

The fourth-grader’s mother, Lillian Beauchamp, is principal at Manatee Academy K-8 School.

The community cries for the Beauchamp family, for the injured students and their families, for the students who witnessed scenes they never should experience, and for the families of all students and educators in St. Lucie County who have been deeply touched by this tragedy.

More than 1,500 family members, friends, teachers, students and members of the community overflowed Fort Pierce Central High School’s auditorium Wednesday for a memorial service for Aaron.

St. Lucie County Athletic Director Jay Stewart said, “This was a 9-year-old kid who lived a full life.”

Patrick Madden, Port St. Lucie High School drama teacher and family friend, remembered the last play he took Aaron to see and, in reference to the closing musical number, said, “Because I knew you, I have been changed for good. And because we’ve known Aaron Beauchamp and he’s touched all of our lives, we have been changed for good.”

The community cries.

Rest in peace, Aaron. You were and will always be loved.

The community cries for you and for our loss.


Article source: http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2012/mar/31/michael-goforth-community-cries-in-wake-of-st/

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