Baldwyn fourth-grader was flown to Memphis but died; Marietta man charged with aggravated assault in the accident
Pratts Community – A Baldwyn Elementary School fourth grader died Wednesday morning, Oct. 31, from injuries sustained when he was struck by an oncoming driver while crossing the road to get on his school bus.
The driver of the white Toyota Tacoma pickup involved in the accident, Hunter Newman, 22, of Marietta, was formally charged Wednesday afternoon with one count of Aggravated Assault in Lee County. His bond was set at $10,000.
Authorities said Dalen Thomas, 9, was crossing the westbound lane of Hwy. 370 in the Pratts Community just west of County Road 2578 at 6:36 a.m. when he was hit. His sister was also preparing to cross the road with him but was not hit. There were four other students already on the bus at that time along with the driver, who witnessed the event. The bus was stopped with its lights flashing and the stop sign extended when the crash occurred.
Counselors were on hand at Baldwyn Elementary on Wednesday morning to help students deal with questions and grief.
“Baldwyn School District will be offering counseling in partnership with the Family Resource Center, Region III, and local ministers on site throughout the rest of the school week,” Raymond Craven, Assistant Superintendent, said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “The safety of our students will continue to be our number one priority. Our thoughts and prayers are extended to the family in this tragic accident.”
According to Troop F Public Affiars Officer, Corporal Jason Roe, Thomas was transported by ambulance to North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo and then airlifted to LeBonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, where he died from his injuries.
The Highway Patrol’s Accident Reconstruction Team was on the scene until around 10 a.m. working to investigate the crash. Newman remained on the scene as well, surrounded by family members. Traffic along Hwy. 370 was blocked until around 10 a.m. State Trooper Master Sergeant Ray Hall said evidence and witness statements gathered will be presented to the district attorney’s office.
“In a case like this it is a felony to strike or injure a child that is getting on a stopped school bus,” Hall said.
The accident happened less than a week after National School Bus Safety Week, and a day after three siblings in northern Indiana were killed when a driver failed to stop for them after they left their school bus.
“Our biggest concern is sadly it takes something like this to serve as a reminder that during those early morning and afternoon hours our school buses are going to be on the highways, city streets and county roads,” Hall said. “We’ve got to pay attention and be alert. When you see a school bus, even when it’s not stopped, the yellow on the bus means caution. Slow down and be more alert just in case there’s a child that’s already gotten off the bus and come back out in the road. Let’s try to pay more attention during those prime hours.”
The accident remains under investigation.