Troopers with the NC Highway Patrol investigating a fatal crash when a driver illegally passed a stopped school bus say the accident reconstruction team is still working to see if the driver's statement matches evidence.
Skies were pitch black at 6:30 Thursday morning. That's when troopers say 57-year-old Barbara Harrison Smith drove her Honda Civic past a stopped school bus, which had lights flashing and the stop arm out, and struck and killed 17-year-old Makinzy Smith.
"From what I could tell she didn't even slow down," said James Cottrell, who was in a work van just two cars behind the stopped school bus. "I heard the impact, realized the boy, the child had been hit, so I got out, run down to where he was at and he wasn't moving and he was gasping for breath."
Despite Cottrell's heroic efforts, nothing could be done to save the West Rowan High student.
"There was an accident today, and we did lose a student..." School spokeswoman Rita Foil was overcome just talking about what happened on Woodleaf Road near Godbey Road Thursday morning.
"I've spoken with the family, the grandparents, and they're all very very upset, just reaffirming that as a school system we're here to do anything we can for them," Foil told WBTV.
Barbara Harrison Smith didn't have any comment after she was charged. She was clearly distraught leaving the magistrate's office, and earlier as she stood by her car at the accident site.
In 2011 the Rowan-Salisbury School District began putting cameras on school buses to record drivers who illegally pass stopped buses. Since then, 45 citations have been issued to drivers for passing stopped buses, officials say.
According to officials, this bus did not have those cameras.
On the North Carolina School Bus Safety web site - there's a snap shot of the problem of illegally passing stopped school buses.
According to the North Carolina Department of Instruction - in March, during a one-day school bus arm violation count - school bus drivers across the state witnessed 3316 drivers illegally passing stopped school buses.
In Mecklenburg County on that same March day - bus drivers said they saw 721 drivers who didn't stop for flashing lights and extended stop arm.
Thursday morning's fatal crash comes just two months after NC Governor Pat McCrory signed a new law, known as the "Hasani N. Wesley Students' School Bus Safety Act," that stiffens the penalty for drivers who pass stopped school buses.
The law, named after an 11-year-old boy who was struck and killed at his bus stop in December 2012, states that if a motorist passing a stopped bus strikes a pedestrian, the violation becomes a felony.
Visitation for Makinzy Smith will be held Saturday, October 19, at Summerset Funeral Home in Salisbury from 4 to 6 p.m. Services are to follow immediately after.