Less than 10 hours after 15-year-old Morgan Duris was killed yesterday trying to catch her school bus, 50 classmates at Northview High School in Sylvania gathered outside the school to remember the freshman.
The teens, many red-eyed with grief, hugged, prayed, and cried in the parking lot at the rear of the school as they circled around the large, heavily painted boulder on Silica Drive that students use to memorialize school events - and one another.
Then a few of them produced spray cans and painted Morgan's name as best they could in the blustery weather. With school officials hovering protectively nearby, they then retired to the privacy of Northview to remember their friend.
Morgan was the last stop on her bus route that traveled along Erie Street to Northview. The flashing red lights and stop sign on the stopped bus were activated, while about 10 of her peers were on the bus waiting for her.
She never made it across the street.
The girl was struck about 7 a.m. yesterday when a sport utility vehicle failed to stop for her as she crossed to board the bus in the 7900 block of Erie Street near Apple Meadow Drive. She died about
7:45 a.m. in Flower Hospital.
Scott Kopke, 15, said he was on the bus listening to music cranked to top volume on his iPod. He heard the crash, then the bus driver cry out.
When Scott looked out the window, he saw the teenager lying several feet behind the bus.
"I saw her body lying on the side of the road," he said. "She wasn't moving and she was lying face down. Then, I heard the lady who hit her get out of the car and she was screaming. She went crazy after she hit her."
The driver of the SUV was Cynthia Anderson, 66, of Toledo. Ms. Anderson, who could not be reached for comment, was cooperating with the investigation and was not charged yesterday, Sylvania police said.
Ms. Anderson was westbound on Erie when she failed to stop for the eastbound bus. Police said they do not believe alcohol was a factor nor was she distracted by a cell phone prior to the crash.
"Drivers just need to really pay attention to what they're doing, which is driving," Sylvania Police Sgt. Danilynn Miller said at the scene of the accident.
The students remained on the bus for about an hour as police recorded their names and witness statements.
"Everyone was crying because of what happened and freaking out and stuff. We all prayed a couple of times; some of us were doing it together," Scott said. "I stayed calm for the most part, because I always felt in situations like that, it was better to stay calm than freak out.
"It's still kind of hard to believe that it actually happened," the teen said.
The bus driver who witnessed the accident was shaken, and was also taken to Flower Hospital for treatment, witnesses said.
Parents were notified of the accident in a mass phone message and were allowed to pick up students early, school officials said.
Northview students who knew Morgan were excused from semester exams and were offered counseling in the school guidance office. Counselors will remain available today, though school is not in session, school officials said.
Two high school girls embraced and cried on the front steps of Northview about an hour after the accident, as their mothers waited to take them home early.
Morgan was described as "a wonderful student" by Sylvania Schools Superintendent Brad Rieger. She played violin in the high school orchestra and the Toledo International Youth Orchestra and was a member of the high school Spanish Club. Her brother, Josh, is a senior at the school and was at home when the accident occured, Mr. Rieger said.
Julia DeBelly, 15, a friend and cello player in the youth orchestra, said Morgan was looking forward to July, when the orchestra is to travel to Vienna, for a music festival and competition.
"She always made everyone laugh, no matter what," Julia said of her friend.
Mr. Rieger and Principal Stewart Jesse spent time with her family at the hospital.
"Obviously, parents aren't built to say good-bye to their children," Mr. Rieger said.
Two men who answered the door at the Duris home declined to comment.
Shayna Zack, 15, was prepared to wrap up her semester exams at Northview. Instead, she was forced to face something she wasn't prepared for - the death of one of her best friends.
Shayna learned from another student that Morgan, a friend of hers since sixth grade, had been struck by a vehicle.
Morgan was a sweet, funny girl who "just cared about everyone," Shayna said.
She couldn't stop crying after she found out Morgan was gone.
"Everyone was just crying and hugging," Shayna said.
"I was in total shock. I still am. It just doesn't feel like it actually happened."
Shayna left school early with her mother, and spent the afternoon creating a Facebook group, "RIP Morgan Duris We Love You," which became a forum for more than 350 people to share memories of the teenager.
"At Northview, everyone somehow knows her," Shayna said.
A 5-year-old boy was killed under similar circumstances in Oregon nearly five years ago.
Dameatrius McCreary was struck March 24, 2005, on Starr Avenue when a car's driver, Angelique Dipman, failed to stop as he crossed the street in front of a school bus with warning lights flashing and its stop arm extended. Dameatrius, a kindergartner at Coy Elementary School, was on his way home from school.
Dipman testified during her trial that she took her eyes off the road briefly to find a ringing cell phone that had fallen from her lap.
She told the jury she didn't see the school bus and believed she had rear-ended another car when she struck the boy. She was convicted of aggravated vehicular homicide and sentenced to 18 months in a regional jail.
On Oct. 22, 2008, Austin Takacs, 11, also of Oregon, died when he tripped and fell under the rear wheels of an Oregon school bus that was pulling away from a bus stop. Austin was trying to alert the bus driver to stop and pick him up when he fell.
Staff writers Carl Ryan and David Patch contributed to this report.
Contact Bridget Tharp at: