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Published: Friday, 1/23/2004

Car hits siblings walking to school

BY CHRISTINA HALL AND SANDRA SVOBODA
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

A second grader at Navarre Elementary School and his sister, who is in first grade, were hurt seriously yesterday when they ran into a car while on their way to school.

Michael Gunter, 7, and Gabrielle Gunter, 6, were taken to St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center, where Michael was in critical condition and Gabrielle was in serious condition last night, authorities said.

Toledo police Officer Rob Malone said Michael sustained head injuries and Gabrielle had lower-body injuries. The children s family declined an interview.

Police said the siblings were about a block from the school about 8:30 a.m. and ran in front of a southbound car driven by Tammy Roughton in the 800 block of Oak Street.

The children, who live at 910 Oak and have attended Navarre since October, were walking north on the sidewalk and darted in front of the car.

“They ran out and didn t see the car coming,” Officer Malone said.

Gabrielle hit the passenger side of the car and fell onto the street. Michael struck the car and bounced off, landing near a pole. Police are investigating whether the boy hit the pole.

Officer Malone said it doesn t appear Ms. Roughton, who was driving with a suspended operator s license, was speeding. Ms. Roughton, 35, of 435 Oaklawn Ave., was on her way home from dropping off her son at Waite High School.

No charges have been filed. The accident remains under investigation.

Officer Malone said the children were trying to catch up with friends their age for the walk to school. Usually, their older sister or father walks with them. But yesterday, their sister was home sick and their father gave the pair a little independence and allowed them to walk the short distance themselves.

The siblings ran across the street where their father crosses with them when they come home from school. Though they were told not to use that route when their father wasn t with them, they took it anyway, the officer said.

He said the pair ran across Oak in the middle of the block where there is no crosswalk. Michelle Sprouse, who was in a car with her mother on the way to the school, held Gabrielle after the injured girl tried to get up, the officer said.

When classes began yesterday at Navarre, few pupils were aware of what had happened, Assistant Principal Marie Bungard said. “Most of them just knew there was an accident,” she said.

Three counselors - the regular Navarre counselor, a special-education teacher with a background in school counseling, and a counselor from another school - met with all the first and second-grade pupils by lunchtime.

“Not all of them knew about it,” said Erika Dawkins, one of the counselors. “Some of them saw their teachers were upset.”

The counselors and pupils talked about what happened, discussed that they didn t know all the facts that morning, and encouraged them to talk about their feelings, she said.

“They were scared and sad. Some of them were kind of angry,” Ms. Dawkins said. “But the kids are doing great. We kept it a positive feel.”

The injured pupils classmates decided they wanted to make “get well” cards, so the counselors and teachers helped them and said they would send them to the hospital, Ms. Bungard said.



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