CMS superintendent addresses student death, bus stop safety as community mourns

(Alex Giles | WBTV)
(Alex Giles | WBTV)

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Bus safety is on the minds of many as 15-year-old Zoe Deen died while crossing the street trying to catch the school bus to Olympic High School Tuesday morning. She was hit by a car that was traveling on Youngblood Road in the Steele Creek area. Parents say they have complained to Charlotte Mecklenburg-School (CMS) District about the bus stop being too dark and dangerous for students.

CMS says it received two complaints about that bus stop the day of Zoe's death. The district says it didn't receive complaints all of last school year. The school district says safety is a top priority.

"We have safety engineers. We have folks who look at every stop and we try our very best to make them safe within the context of where we find them," CMS Superintendent Dr. Clayton Wilcox said.

CMS says if parents think their children's bus stop is unsafe, they can go on the district's website and report it. The district says so far this year, there have been 665 unsafe bus stop requests.

Students and neighbors say poor lighting, no crosswalk and a speed limit of 45 miles per hour at that particular bus stop are ingredients for danger.

"I don't think it should be a bus stop. If that's a bus stop, then there needs to be good crosswalks - lit up so people can know there's kids," neighbor Jose Wilkins said.

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CMS superintendent says safety is the goal but the district can do but so much.

"We are not the people who light streets. We are not the people who put speed limit on the roads," the superintendent said.

While CMS officials discussed the tragic incident, students and members in the community created a makeshift memorial near the bus stop.

"We really just wanted to show our respects and contribute to the loss. It really hit our school really hard," said Connor Waite, a student at Olympic High School.

Waite and his friend, Carlos Guerrero, said that the mood at their school was somber Tuesday.

"It hit me cause it could happen to anyone," said Guerrero.

Tamara Times said her son rides the same bus as the student who was killed. She heard about the incident soon after it happened.

"Honestly, I was devastated and heartbroken," said Times.

She said that neighbors in the area have complained about the bus stops in years past, but nothing has ever been done to change them.

"There are no sidewalks. There are no lights. It's extremely dark," Times explained to WBTV

CMS reviews bus stops every year. There are certain distances a bus stop can be located for students.  The bus stop has to be within 2/10 of a mile for elementary school students and no more than 4/10 of a mile for middle and high school students. The district also says if streets are considered too hazardous and students cannot get to the other side, the bus stop will be located on the right side of the bus to prevent students from crossing the street.

The investigation still continues to determine what went wrong. The accident report detailing what happened is also not ready. In the meantime Zoe's friends want something done sooner rather than later to address bus stop safety at the bus stop on Youngblood Road.

"Some lights - some speed limit would help because it looks like a place that can come again. I don't want another family again to get destroyed like that. That is not a feeling that should be felt at all," friend Alex Cordova said.

Sources tell WBTV the school bus driver waiting for Zoe has only been on the job for about a year. We are told she was too shaken to tell police what she saw and what she did.

CMS says cameras were rolling inside the school bus to capture what was happening inside the bus. The district says the video cannot be released because it is still an ongoing investigation.

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