A 15-year-old teen in Alabama was killed in front of her house while walking toward her school bus. The accident happened on Oct. 5 near the Blount County-St. Clair County line.
The teen was identified in a Facebook post by her parents' employer, Allman Farms & Orchards, as Carmen Lopez.
St. Clair County Deputy Coroner Joe Sweat told AL.com that Lopez was in the front yard of her residence at about 7:30 a.m., walking toward the school bus with her siblings when a 2004 Nissan Frontier left the roadway, striking her. 31-year-old Tyler Gillilan was reportedly driving the pickup truck. Authorities said he crashed into the house after hitting Lopez.
School Bus Fleet awaits word on whether Gillilan is facing charges.
The crash happened on U.S. 231 near the 245 mile marker.
School Bus Fleet spoke to Alabama Director of Pupil Transportation Chad Carpenter about the accident. He shared advice for members of the public who are on the roadways with school buses.
"If you see a bus, in general, I think it should throw up a caution flag to all of us that...there's a strong possibility there are students — k-12 age and below — there, and the possibility of them stopping to load and unload is high," Carpenter said.
He believes there is nothing the school district could have done to have prevented the accident.
"We realize this is a dangerous endeavor when we're stopping in the middle of a highway. And we're asking the bus driver to control students on a bus. They're also asked to control as much as possible, getting those students on and off the bus as they're loading and unloading. They're also asked to control traffic around them with a stop sign, and amber lights and red lights," Carpenter said. "It's a very harsh reminder that sometimes, people in the transportation industry can do everything correctly. And still tragedy happens."
Carpenter noted that transportation directors are trained to evaluate bus stops and move them if they are determined to be in an unsafe spot. He reiterated that the school bus is the safest mode of transportation for students.
"If we can get kids on those buses, those buses are incredibly safe vehicles," Carptenter said. "But the idea of kids on the ground with surrounding traffic is a very dangerous endeavor. And 99.9% of the time, everything is done correctly, and things are flawless. But when that 1/10 of 1% happens, it proves to be tragic."
Blount County School Superintendent Rodney Green released a statement, saying:
"It is with a heavy and broken heart that we share the news of a devasting, tragic accident at a bus stop this morning that took the life of one of our students at Appalachian School. This is certainly one of the most difficult things that our school and our community have had to face. Appalachian School is a close-knit community school that loves and supports its students, and our thoughts and prayers go out to them. I want to thank our first responders, our community members, counselors and employees for their assistance with the families involved and with our students impacted at the school. Thanks for the outpouring of love, prayers, and support for the family, our school, and our community and please remember them in the difficult days ahead."
In its statement, Allman Farms & Orchards said in part, "Carmen Lopez was beautiful, kind, & loving. She was a daughter, cousin, and friend to many. She has brought so much joy to those around her in her short life."