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BUCKINGHAM COUNTY, Va. –- When a Buckingham County school bus driver saw two children dart across Route 15 to catch their school bus, she said she did her best to motion to the children to get back across the street. The two children, cousins Tori Perez, 5, and Jaiden Bartee, 6, either did not see her or ignored the warning.
Both were killed when a truck, with 75,000 pounds of mulch onboard, hit the children.
The truck was headed northbound on the 55 mph roadway, downhill. The bus was in the southbound lane, with yellow flashing lights on, as it had not come to a complete stop yet.
The red flashing lights and stop sign are triggered when the vehicle comes to a complete stop.
The kids excitedly began to run across the street as the bus approached, and four other kids stayed behind.
There were also children of all ages on board the bus, as the rural routes are run for all grades.
Skid marks painted the road from the tractor trailer, who could not fight against physics as he tried to bring the fully loaded truck to a stop while traveling downhill.
It was not until he saw the children run out that the driver knew he needed to stop because the bus lights were flashing yellow.
The Virginia State Police Appomattox Division’s Accident Reconstruction Team responded to the scene to assist with the crash investigation.
“There are no violations on this,” Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said initially, though later further investigation by the Virginia State Police Motor Carrier Safety Team found several equipment violations which resulted in the tractor-trailer being placed out of order.
"However, none of the violations would have had an impact on the vehicle’s ability to stop or avoid the crash," Geller said.
The 66-year-old driver was fully licensed, and based on witness account and the crash investigation, there will be no charges, police said.
“The community, school, and local clergy had been deployed at all level of the school system to work through this tragedy with children and employees,” a Buckingham Schools spokesperson said. “The superintendent wants everyone to keep us in prayer during these times.”
This is a developing story.