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Father says bus stop unsafe

February 22, 2001

Father says bus stop unsafe



By BOB PARTLOW and DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writers


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The father of a 13-year-old boy who was struck and killed by a pickup truck on U.S. 11 Tuesday while walking toward his school bus stop said a Berkeley County school official told him he had visited the bus pickup area and deemed it to be safe for the youngster.

Michael McDaniel, father of Brandon Michael McDaniel, said he did not believe it was safe for his son to walk down the busy highway to catch the school bus.

The bus initially picked up Brandon at his Falling Waters house, but the school district later required him to walk along the road and then board the bus on the other side, his father said.

District Transportation Director Larry Carte "visited it and it was safe to go up the road," said McDaniel.

McDaniel said he never received anything in writing from the district about the concerns he said he expressed.

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He called the situation a "common sense issue," especially in light of the fact his 8-year-old son is picked up at the house.

"Is it safer to have him picked up in front of his house or 215 feet down the road in front of a mobile home park?" McDaniel asked. "It's dark out when he leaves for school. And there's cars coming by along that road at 50 or 60 miles an hour all the time."

The district said it believed it was safe for the older child to catch the bus farther down the road, while the 8-year-old son needed to be picked up at the house, McDaniel said.

McDaniel was asked what he planned to do.

"I just want them to admit it was unsafe," he said.

Mary Jo Brown, spokeswoman for Berkeley County Schools, said she could not respond to McDaniel's comments because she has not spoken with Carte.

A woman who answered the telephone at the school district's Transportation Department on Wednesday said no one at the office would comment on the accident.

The woman, who would not give her name, referred questions to Brown.

McDaniel was walking across U.S. 11 at 6:35 a.m. Tuesday when he was struck in the northbound lane by a pickup truck driven by Chester Bankes, 70, of 2001 Charles Lane in Martinsburg, according to West Virginia State Police.

Bankes was taken to Washington County Hospital because he appeared distraught, state police said.

Bankes told police he tried to swerve to the left to avoid hitting the boy. Police said a speed analysis showed the truck was traveling within the speed limit.

Berkeley County Board of Education members Todd Beckwith and Bill Sonnik said they could not comment on the issue.

"It's a terribly unfortunate accident," Beckwith said. "My heart goes out to the family."

He said all five board members have children and will be sensitive to finding out what happened.

"I'm sure we're going to learn what happened, the circumstances," he said. "You want to know and you want to know if something can be improved."

Sonnik said the school system is always deeply saddened when something like this happens to one of its students. "We want them to get home safely and we want them to get to school safely," Sonnik said.

School Board President William Queen could not be reached for comment.

The school system's crisis intervention team continued to counsel students at Hedgesville Middle School on Wednesday to help them deal with McDaniel's death, Brown said.

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