BY KEVIN PEARSON AND ERIN WALDNE
STAFF WRITERS firstname.lastname@example.org | email@example.com
Nine people were taken to hospitals, three in critical condition, after a truck ran a red light and plowed through a crosswalk in front of Hemet High School as classes let out Wednesday, May 30, authorities said.
The driver was 18-year-old Daniel Carrillo, an11th-grader at Hemet High, according to the California Highway Patrol. He had been driving west on Stetson Avenue faster than the 25-mph school zone speed limit and failed to stop at the red light, CHP Officer Darren Meyer said in a written statement.
All but one of the injured were students. The other was a 60-year-old adult.
The three students in critical condition were run over by the truck and sustained head injuries, Meyer said in an interview.
Parent Rick Chavez witnessed the accident while waiting at the red light just after picking up his son.
“The guy went through the red light. …I saw the truck and started screaming out ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa!’ ” Chavez said. “He plowed right into the kids. Two girls were really bad. I thought they were gone. I was in shock.”
The CHP said authorities wouldn’t decide whether to pursue criminal charges against Carrillo until all the evidence is examined, including a mechanical inspection of the truck. Drugs and alcohol weren’t involved, Meyer said.
CROWD OF STUDENTS HIT
The accident happened just after school let out, while about 30 students were crossing Stetson Avenue to get from the main campus to the student parking lot next to the football field.
Carrillo was driving a 1994 Ford Ranger with his twin brother and a friend, the CHP said.
Witnesses at the scene said they saw the truck enter the right-turn lane that leads into the parking area. Rather than turning, however, witnesses said they heard the truck accelerate and go straight.
Students said they could hear bones crunch and victims screaming as the truck hit the crowd.
“He revved the throttle like crazy. We heard the RPMs build,” student Alex Bissett said. “I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. I’ve seen a lot of crazy stuff, but this tops it.”
Carrillo stopped immediately after the crash to assist the victims, Meyer wrote in the CHP statement.
A backpack, one shoe and other loose items were left scattered in the intersection as officials investigated. There was a small pool of blood on the ground.
At one point, Carrillo and his family had a small confrontation with witnesses. CHP officers and Riverside County sheriff’s deputies told them to remain in separate areas.
Multiple cameras stationed around the campus caught the accident, and copies of the video were given to law enforcement officials, Hemet High Principal Emily Shaw said.
The injured students were taken to Riverside County Regional Medical Center in Moreno Valley and the adult was taken to Inland Valley Regional Medical Center in Wildomar, authorities said.
At the Moreno Valley hospital Wednesday evening, family members and friends waited anxiously. Some cried. Others comforted each other on benches outside or exchanged information. Mostly, they were quiet.
Alexis Smith said her 15-year-old brother, Melvin, was among the victims. She said he suffered major hip injuries, but “he’s doing OK. They got him to stand.”
Smith said she heard that her brother was in the crosswalk with his girlfriend and threw her to the side when the truck came toward them. “He’s kind of in shock,” she said — but he’s more worried about his girlfriend.
Smith said her mother was among the first on scene. She was nearby and heard the accident , and ran over hoping her son wasn’t hurt. When she arrived, she saw all the kids lying on the pavement.
Standing outside the trauma room, Carlos Barrera said his 16-year-old daughter Kimberly was hit. She is on the basketball and track teams and was on her way to the powder puff game that was scheduled for Wednesday .
Kimberly was complaining of pain in her hip and head, said Barrera, whose other daughter was crying nearby. “That’s all I know. We’re still waiting.”
Wednesday’s accident, just two days before graduation, adds to a turbulent year for students and staff on the East Hemet campus.
This year, two students committed suicide and a popular freshman English teacher, Janel Ramirez, was arrested and later pleaded guilty to having an on-campus sexual relationship with a minor student.
Shaw, the principal, said the accident was especially tough to handle because the students in the crosswalk were doing just what they were supposed to.
“The students were crossing appropriately,” Shaw said. “This is definitely not something you can prepare for. … We tell them not to cross against a red light, or to walk outside of the lines, but the kids did what they needed to be doing.”