Every parent's worst nightmare came during the noon-time release of kindergartners from Tuolumne Elementary School on Wednesday and a five-year-old boy was struck and died as he darted into traffic.
Alan Fernandez was attempting to cross Herndon Road in south Modesto midblock between Sonora and Latimer avenues as his mother awaited him in a car parked on the other side. The child had entered the roadway without looking both ways and walked into the path of a southbound Modesto Area Express bus.
The driver of the Modesto transit bus never saw the child but felt the tire hit a bump. The driver hit the brakes with the bus pinning the deceased child to the road. The bus had to be moved to get off the child who was already deceased.
A witness, Sylvia Rangel, was driving down the street and saw the boy get excited to see his mother and then carelessly dart out into the road. Rangel said the horrified mother witnessed her son getting struck by the bus and began screaming as she rushed toward the scene.
The fatal accident underscored the problem of traffic congestion caused by parents around school sites at student release times. Residents along Herndon Road say the situation after school is often dangerous as parents park on the east side of the street and expect their children to walk across outside of a crosswalk. Traffic congestion was worse on Wednesday because of rain and parents who drove to get close to the front of the school to pick up their children rather than walk and escort their children.
Herndon Road resident Gary Haverly said MAX buses don't belong on Herndon Road, especially during school hours. He called for the bus route to change by moving over a street or two.
Modesto City School officials said they educate parents about safe practices throughout the year and discourage parents from stopping in the road and parking on the opposite side of the road to prevent children from darting across into traffic.
As with many older schools in the Ceres area, parking lots are not available nor are there safe methods of pick-up other than parking blocks away and walking in - a practice for which many parents don't opt.
Counselors were made available to students to help them cope with the death.