Car strikes West student crossing highway (video)

By Jessica Priest , ALLISON MILES

By Jessica Priest , ALLISON MILES
May 13, 2013 at 12:13 a.m.
Updated May 14, 2013 at 12:14 a.m.

Motorists on U.S. Highway 87 often see West High School students darting in and out of traffic in the mornings on their way to grab a quick bite to eat at a nearby convenience store.

Justin Drurey, a 16-year-old sophomore, joined a few of those students Monday morning. It was his first time to make the trip, and it didn't end well.

Justin was hit by a vehicle driven by 36-year-old Melissa Springer while he was attempting to cross from the east to the west side the highway about 8 a.m., said Sgt. Eline Moya, a spokeswoman for the Victoria Police Department.

He was taken to DeTar Hospital Navarro, where on Monday night his father, Don Drurey, was at his bedside, answering worried Facebook and text messages from loved ones and friends.

Drurey was thankful his son, who likes to play basketball, didn't have any broken bones. Doctors stitched up Justin's head, which hit a windshield, and ordered additional CT scans.

Drurey is a former VISD school bus driver, so he usually drops Justin off on campus at 6:30 a.m., knowing traffic worsens the later you wait. And Monday was no different.

It wasn't until police called him while he was working at Caterpillar at 8:15 a.m. that he learned Justin hadn't stayed where he left him.

"He (Justin) has said that he is not doing that again. He's going to stay on his own side of the street," Drurey said. "I hope others learn from what happened to him, too, because it could have been a lot worse than what it is."

Springer, of Victoria, visited Justin in the hospital.

"She was very concerned. ... I can hardly imagine how she feels after something like this," Drurey said.

Parents are now calling for officials to re-examine that stretch of road, which they say is not only notoriously unsafe but also congested and inconvenient with just one access point to both West High School and Cade Middle School from West Tropical Drive.

David Calliham parked on the side of U.S. Highway 87 facing south Monday about 3:30 p.m. to pick up his grandson. He thought this way was secure because his grandson only needed to cross a field of grass, not four lanes of traffic to reach him.

"This is the only way I've ever done it," Calliham said. "We got a nice, wide shoulder here for a reason."

Further up the shoulder, Sherri Davis, 46, was in her sport utility vehicle waiting for her 17-year-old son. She wanted to avoid a snake-like line in the school parking lot that sometimes takes anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes to get out off.

"There, you're at the mercy of the next person and whether or not they'll let you in the line," Davis, a nurse, said, suggesting a second entrance and exit might alleviate some of these problems. "But you know (VISD) have plans for a reason, and you never know why."

VISD spokesperson Diane Boyett said Monday's accident had nothing to do with how the school was configured about three years ago.

Both the Texas Department of Transportation and the city's planning department advised against adding a driveway entrance to the parking lot off the highway then, and Boyett does not foresee that changing.

"Having 12 driveways would not have prevented that accident this morning. It probably would have caused more of them," she said.

If a subdivision is built near where West Tropical Drive dead ends, vehicles could eventually exit in that direction. The district chose to build a high school at that location because it was somewhat of a rarity in Victoria - vacant, nearby and large enough to accommodate about 1,700 students, all of whom are eligible for bus transportation, Boyett added.

Boyett did not know if students are prohibited from venturing off campus once they are dropped off, but guessed it was OK to do so before instruction began for the day.

Talitha Kloss, 36, meanwhile, waited an hour and half in the line exiting the school's parking lot Monday morning after she dropped off her ninth-grader. Kloss said working parents are so frustrated and distracted that by the time they get on the roadway, they aren't paying attention to the kids who may be crossing.

"I'm just one of the lucky people who doesn't have somewhere to be after I drop off my child," Kloss said.

Don Drurey, meanwhile, liked the idea of a pedestrian overpass that other parents and area residents were suggesting, but he thought there needs to be more discussion.

"Certainly, they (the district) can do something, but I don't know what the exact answer would be," he said.

Moya said Justin is likely at fault because he did not yield the right of way, but an investigation is ongoing.

She said while drivers are reminded by flashing lights to slow down as students are released in the afternoon there still may not be enough time for them to react to a pedestrian.

Boyett encouraged everyone to be patient.

"They (the parents) don't need to pick their child up exactly at 4 o'clock, and certainly no student needs to be the first one to get out of the parking lot," she said.

Advocate reporter Allison Miles contributed to this report.



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