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Palm Coast Friday, Oct. 9, 2015 2 years ago

Community grieves for 7-year-old Wadsworth girl killed by car strike at school bus stop

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Counselors helped Wadsworth students cope, and community members created a change.org petition and a memorial of stuffed animals, cards and balloons at the site of Kymora Christian's death.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

A team of 10 mental health professionals converged at Wadsworth Elementary School the day after 7-year-old Kymora Christian, a second-grader who’d attended the school since kindergarten, died after being struck by a car Oct. 7 while waiting for a school bus.

The school shut down the media center, setting it aside as a safe place for students to speak with counselors, ask questions, and work through their grief. 

“Throughout the day, as kids needed to come in, they came into the media center and they did drawings and cards for Kymora,” said Dr. Tracy Umpenhour, director of the school district’s ESE program. “Many of them said that they were best friends with her.”

The team counseled about 40 students, Umpenhour said. 

“It’s a very, very sad situation,” that has left some children struggling emotionally, she said. “Like always at Wadsworth, they have a great, family atmosphere, and everybody pulls together.”

The psychologists went into a 2nd-grade classroom and answered student questions, Umpenhour said, and assessed the campus to see how students, teachers and staff are coping.

A team of four or five mental health professionals will remain at the school Oct. 9.

Kymora died near the intersection of Whippoorwill Drive and Winter Haven Court, after a white 2002 Lincoln Navigator struck her as she waited for her bus. The stop was the first on the bus’ route.

Melissa Beane-Meeth, the 36-year-old woman who was driving the car, called 911, breaking into sobs as she told a dispatcher that the little girl ran in front of the car and didn’t seem to be breathing.  

“Please hurry,” she told the dispatcher. “Oh my God, I can’t believe I killed somebody’s kid.”

Beane-Meeth had been driving her 11-year-old son to school when she struck Kymora. 

Repeatedly during the nearly seven-minute long call, the dispatcher asked her if the little girl was breathing.

“No, she’s —  there’s blood all over the road,” Beane-Meeth said at one point. 

Beane-Meeth said over and over again that the girl had darted in front of her. The dispatcher asked her how fast she’d been going.

 “I was going the speed limit; I don’t go fast during the day,” she said. “I’ve got my kid in the car.”

She said another car prevented her from swerving. The dispatcher tried to comfort her.

“I can’t believe I did this,” Beane-Meeth said. “This is so horrible.”

The little girl’s mother arrived at the scene a couple of minutes after the call came in. 

A bystander also called 911, and at first offered to do CPR, but said, “But you can see all the blood coming from her head. I don’t think she’s breathing. … She couldn’t be.”

Kymora is the third child to be struck by a vehicle in the morning this school year. In September, a school bus struck a Buddy Taylor 8th-grader, causing minor injuries, and an Indian Trails Middle School student was struck in a hit and run crash.

“They’re just unfortunate accidents from what I understand, this one being the most serious of them all,” Flagler Schools spokesman Jason Wheeler said. “There’s not really a common denominator between the three, other than children were involved.”

A day after Kymora's death, residents placed balloons, cards and stuffed animals on the grass near the intersection of Winter Haven Court and Whippoorwill Drive.

Some created and signed a change.org petition, addressed to Palm Coast’s mayor, city manager and City Council members, and titled, “Safer residential streets in Palm Coast, FL.”

The petition had gathered more than 500 signatures by the evening of Oct. 8.

“Three children have been hit by cars while walking or biking to school in 2015 since school started in August,” the petition’s text read. “Our children should not have to worry about their safety when they are going to school.  We need to make sure our children have a safe, well-lit path to walk and ride on. … We can do better by our kids.”

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