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W.Va. boy killed in accident

February 20, 2001

W.Va. boy killed in accident



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


FALLING WATERS, W.Va. - A 13-year-old Falling Waters boy died Tuesday morning when he was struck by a pickup truck while crossing the road to get to his school bus stop, West Virginia State Police said.

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The youth's father said Tuesday evening that he had complained to a Berkeley County schools official that he felt the area where his son caught the bus was unsafe.

Brandon Michael McDaniel was pronounced dead at Washington County Hospital at about 7 a.m. Tuesday, officials said. Police said he sustained severe head injuries.

Brandon was walking across U.S. 11 at 6:35 a.m. when he was struck in the northbound lane by a Chevrolet S-10 truck driven by Chester Bankes, 70, of 2001 Charles Lane in Martinsburg, W.Va.

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Bankes was taken to Washington County Hospital because he appeared to be distraught, state police said. He was later interviewed by authorities in Martinsburg, W.Va., after he returned from the hospital, police said.

Bankes told police he attempted to swerve to the left to avoid the boy, the release said. Police measured skid marks of 38 feet, 6 inches and 43 feet, 6 inches at the scene, Senior Trooper D.M. Olack said.

Police said a speed analysis conducted on the pickup truck showed it was traveling the posted speed limit. Bankes told police he was traveling between 30 and 35 miles an hour when the accident occurred, the release said.

Police said no driver error or fault was determined through the investigation.

Scattered on the ground near where Brandon was struck were a back pack, eye glasses, a watch, a portable compact disc player and headphones, police said.

Mike McDaniel, the boy's father, said police told him his son was thrown about 50 feet.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Olack said the Hedgesville Middle School student may have been wearing headphones while listening to a compact disc player and didn't hear the truck approaching.

Brandon's father, Michael McDaniel, disputed that.

When the McDaniels moved to Falling Waters 16 months ago, they were not sure where their son should catch the bus, said Brandon's mother, Tina McDaniels.

They decided to have their son catch the bus about 250 feet north of their house, and also across the road, at least initially, Tina McDaniels said.

At some point, there was some trouble among youths at the bus stop, and Brandon decided to catch the bus in front of his house so he could avoid the situation, his mother said.

School officials later decided the bus would no longer stop in front of the McDaniels' house, which is about seven houses north of the 7-Eleven store along U.S. 11.

When Brandon began catching the bus at the original stop, Michael McDaniel said his son would wait outside his house every morning until he saw the bus coming down the road. When the bus was within about 500 feet of the stop, Brandon would cross the highway and walk along the road to the bus stop, his father said.

McDaniel said he did not like the arrangement because his son had to cross the highway alone. When the bus had stopped at his house, the driver would stop traffic until Brandon got on, his father said.

He said he was also concerned about his son's safety because he would head for the bus stop when it was barely light outside.

McDaniel said he had complained to school Transportation Director Larry Carte about the situation.

"I'm very concerned about this. I told them this was unsafe," McDaniel said Tuesday night.

Carte could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Tina McDaniel said school officials had advised her that her son should not cross the highway until he had reached the bus stop.

Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny Arvon said McDaniel's father talked to him about the situation after the accident Tuesday. Arvon said he did not know about the situation until then, which is typical with a system the size of Berkeley County's.

"There's things I really shouldn't comment (on) until I get the facts. We'll do an in-depth study of everything," Arvon said.

A crisis team of counselors, school nurses and ministers went to Hedgesville Middle School Tuesday to help students deal with the tragedy, said Frank Aliveto, deputy superintendent of schools.

"Kids can grieve in different ways," said Aliveto, who said the team may stay at Hedgesville Middle for several days.

Brandon, who would have turned 14 on March 15, wanted to join the service and become a mechanical engineer, his father said.

"He had already signed the papers to go into ROTC next year," Michael McDaniel said.

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