A 10-year-old boy died Tuesday morning after he was struck by a pickup truck at a Clermont bus stop that angry parents and neighbors say has been dangerous for years.
“It was an accident waiting to happen and something needs to be done to make this bus stop, and probably many others, safer for the kids,” neighborhood resident Marlena De Renzo said. “It’s so horrible that it takes somebody to die (to get) some attention to it.” Lake County School District spokesman Chris Patton said the district is reviewing the specifics of the accident and the bus stop. He had not heard of specific complaints about the bus stop. “The safety of students at bus stops is something we take very seriously,” Patton said. The district tries its best to teach students, parents, bus drivers and others about bus stop safety. “The missing part of this equation is motorists,” Patton said. The Florida Highway Patrol said Anthony Moore was struck shortly before 8 a.m. on the corner of Lake Minneola Shores Road and Oklahoma Street, reportedly within sight of his home.
The Minneola Elementary School student was taken to South Lake Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Neighbors and family members at the scene of the accident Tuesday morning said the bus had its red lights flashing when the pickup truck struck Anthony. The driver, Mario Albert Saucedo, 39, of Clermont, was taken into custody for driving without a license, the Florida Highway Patrol said. Other charges may be pending. Saucedo was wearing his seatbelt and was not impaired at the time of the accident, the FHP said. Lake County Sheriff’s Sgt. Jim Vachon said Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials Tuesday put a detaining order on Saucedo. Parents and neighbors said they have been complaining about the bus stop for years. The boy’s mother, Susie Moore, said it was scary when she and her sister used it themselves as Minneola Elementary School students. “The thing is, the bus stop has been this way for about 25 years,” said Moore, adding that she and her husband both have had several near-accidents at the intersection.
Neighbors and family members said they have complained about the bus stop because a steep grade behind it forces children to stand fairly close to the road, where speeders don’t slow down, even while approaching the busy intersection. There are no signs telling people they are approaching a bus stop and people just fly down the road here,” said Rusty Barron, who lives across the street from the bus stop. Barron and the boy’s uncle, Mark DeSenti, said they have both called the county numerous times to try to move the bus stop or at least get sidewalks installed.“It’s a total tragedy that could have been avoided by so many things,” DeSenti said. Adding to the danger is that children living south of Lake Minneola Shores Road (County Road 561) have to fight rush hour traffic and cross the road to get to the bus stop by 7:45 a.m. “You’ve got a busy intersection,” Moore said. “People are just flying down this road, so if you have to put two separate bus stops- one on either side of the highway so kids don’t have to cross the road- then do that. “Something has to be changed because not only did I lose my son, but the kids on the bus are part of this tragedy and the kids in his class, too.”
The mood was somber Tuesday morning at Minneola Elementary, Patton said. “It’s still new,” Patton said of the news of the fourth-grader’s death. Teachers were working with the students Tuesday but grief counselors were expected to be brought in today, Patton said.
School Principal Sandra Reaves praised Anthony in this statement:
“Anthony was full of life and had a bright future. His warm smile will be greatly missed by the entire school. It’s a devastating time for our school. We ask for the media’s understanding when dealing with the school and family. Our thoughts, prayers and condolences are with his family, friends, and classmates.”
DeRenzo, who lives on the intersection, was one of the first people to call 911 after the accident. “I saw the boy fly and then heard a big screech,” she said. A retired nurse, DeRenzo said she ran over to Anthony, who was lying in the middle of the road, as did a doctor on his way to work, who stopped and attempted to give the boy CPR. Barron said he heard a boom and then a screeching tires, indicating to him that the driver hit Anthony first, before slamming on his brakes. DeRenzo said the driver of the pickup truck laid down on the ground, crying and screaming, “Oh my God, oh my God.”
At the scene of the accident Tuesday morning, Moore laid her son’s favorite toy, a stuffed “Scooby Doo,” on top of a makeshift memorial the family erected. Anthony’s grandmother, Ruth Sides, said her grandson was a “total Scooby Doo fan. “He’d sit and watch Scooby Doo over and over again, then watch it some more. He loved it,” said Sides, who shares her house with Moore and her husband, plus their four children, including Anthony. When Moore got to the bus stop, she said she saw her son lying in the middle of the road. He was not wearing his glasses and she searched in vain at the crash site to find them for him.
Tuesday’s bus stop crash marked the second in less than a week in Lake County. On the morning of May 5, a 9-year-old Leesburg boy was struck by a 2008-blue Jeep driven by Savannah Elliott, 25, of Fruitland Park, as he waited for his bus at Oak Terrace Drive and Lee Street, Leesburg police said. The boy was crossing the road to board a school bus, police said. He was taken to Leesburg Regional Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries, police said.