Eleven-year-old Austin Takacs was killed yesterday after he ran alongside his school bus as it pulled away from its stop in Oregon, tripped on his bookbag, and fell into the street.
The sixth grader at Eisenhower Middle School was struck by the rear tires of the bus and died less than an hour later at St. Charles Mercy Hospital.
The early morning accident, which occurred while it was still dark, was witnessed by children on the bus and some neighbors, as well as Austin's mother - who had driven her son so he could catch up to the bus.
"I'm still trying to get it out of my mind," said neighbor Vicky Orovitz, who took off work yesterday because she was so upset. "It's an extreme tragedy."
Ms. Orovitz drove past the bus soon after the accident and said she saw the boy's mother, Nancy, get out of her car, screaming as she ran toward her son.
The bus, driven by Rita Grivanos, 67, of Oregon, was northbound on Cardinal Bay Drive and had turned eastbound onto Warner Way shortly before Austin was struck about 7:15 a.m.
Brianna Pettaway, 14, a freshman at Clay High School, said
Austin's mother often drove him to the bus stop from his house at 1114 Vieth Drive, which is a few blocks away.
Oregon Police Lt. Hank Everitt said Ms. Grivanos, who was hired by Oregon City Schools in 1988, told police she did not see the boy as she pulled away from the stop.
Lieutenant Everitt said none of the 25 children on the bus alerted Ms. Grivanos that Austin was running beside the bus, which he estimated was traveling at about 5 mph when it struck the boy.
Ms. Grivanos collapsed after the accident, apparently overwhelmed with grief, and was treated at St. Charles. She declined comment last night.
Miss Pettaway, who was in the back of the bus, recalled hearing a student on the bus scream that someone had been run over.
Vicky Orovitz plants lilies in her front yard to relieve the stress of the tragedy; she spoke well of bus driver Rita Grivanos.
"I started crying," she said.
Ken Filipiak, the city's administrator, said no citations had been filed against the bus driver. He expects the investigation to be completed in the next several weeks.
Mr. Filipiak said it appears there was nothing Ms. Grivanos could have done differently to prevent the tragedy.
"Nothing initially would suggest there was anything she could have done," he said.
Oregon City Schools Superintendent Mike Zalar said grief counselors were available at the school yesterday.
Staff members and administrators accompanied bus drivers on their routes yesterday afternoon to offer additional support to the students.
"This is truly a tragic situation," Mr. Zalar said during a news conference yesterday. "One that we are all at a loss to understand."
A man who answered the door at the Takacs family home yesterday said the family did not want to talk to reporters.
Barbara and Tom Brillhart, who live across the street from where the accident happened, said they rushed outside after they heard screaming.
They found Austin's mother leaning over her son, crying and yelling.
Mrs. Brillhart described Austin as a great kid, who was in the gifted program at school and loved playing baseball.
Ms. Orovitz, who planted lilies around a tree in her front yard yesterday in an attempt to calm herself, said her children used to ride Ms. Grivanos' bus route.
She said Ms. Grivanos would often honk her horn at cars that drove too fast and children joked that they never got to school events on time because Ms. Grivanos drove so slowly.
"She's one of the most cautious drivers I've ever seen," Ms. Orovitz said.
Ms. Grivanos consistently has received high marks on her performance evaluations, according to her personnel file.
The most recent evaluation in 2006 rated Ms. Grivanos as outstanding or very good in categories ranging from quality of work to dependability to her relationships with people.
"She takes her time and always puts safety first," a supervisor wrote in the evaluation.
Also included in Ms. Grivanos' personnel file was a hand-written note from Michelle Davis, whose son Jimmy used to ride Ms. Grivanos' route.
Ms. Davis said she was worried about putting Jimmy on the bus after her cousin was killed in a school bus accident. She thanked Ms. Grivanos for her "heart-felt smile" and "safety-first priority."
"I knew from the first day that I had nothing to worry about. You were just the driver I needed," Ms. Davis wrote in the note dated May, 31, 2007.
Three years ago, a 5-year-old Oregon boy was killed in the same school district when he was struck by a car after he got off a school bus in front of his home.
On March, 23, 2005, Dameatrius McCreary, a kindergartner at Coy Elementary School, stepped off a school bus - with its warning lights flashing - and was crossing Starr Avenue near Berlin Avenue to go home when he was struck by a car driven by Angelique Dipman, 27, of Clay Township, Ottawa County.
Dipman, who was found guilty of aggravated vehicular homicide in August, 2005, was reaching for a ringing cell phone when the accident occurred. She was sentenced to 18 months in the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio, Stryker, and her driver's license was suspended for 15 years.
Sandra TenEyck, Dameatrius' mother, filed a lawsuit in 2006 against Dipman, the school district, and the bus driver.
The complaint alleged the school district was negligent in providing for the safety of Dameatrius and it failed to use safety equipment that could have prevented the accident.
The lawsuit also said the bus driver, Shawna Watson, could see oncoming traffic moving while she opened the doors of the bus, allowing Dameatrius to get off, violating state administrative code safety procedures.
The case was dismissed in February, 2007, court records show.
Staff writer Mike Sigov contributed to this report.
Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett at:
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