Dozens of children’s faces peered curiously from schoolbus windows as a 5th grader on his bike pedaled across the intersection of North Beach Road and School Road. He didn’t see the car coming, but some of them did.
They stared in horror as the 11-year-old was knocked over and dragged beneath the vehicle, a gray/blue compact model. He was not wearing a helmet.
“Thankfully, this was a low speed accident,” said elementary and middle school principal Kyle Freeman. “The student was very lucky to escape the accident with only minor injuries and was released to the Funhouse to wait for his father following an examination by paramedics and a local doctor.”
The accident happened just after school let out on Jan. 4, accompanied by all the usual congestion of vehicle, foot and bike traffic flowing in every direction through Eastsound streets surrounding the school. The school busses had just reached the intersection, and many students witnessed the accident. The Sounder has been unable to speak with any adult witnesses of the scene who could explain exactly how the accident happened.
Emergency responder Mik Preysz was part of the response team that helped extricate the boy from underneath the car.
“He was still under the bike,” said Preysz. “We got the car off the bike, and the bike off the child. We just backed [the car] up.”
He said there was no real damage to either the bike or the car, and the boy was uninjured, escaping with just a scratched knee.
“The response of our fire and police departments was amazing, and it was impressive to see so many community members respond to the aid of a student,” said Freeman. “This is also a very good time to remind students of the importance of wearing a helmet when riding their bike.”
Preysz said the “buddy pegs” on the back of the boy’s bike kept it from crushing down on his leg harder.
“The poor lady that hit him was very shook up, understandably,” said Orcas fire division chief Val Harris. “It was quite the heart-stopping thing for his dad as well.”
But in the end, she said, the accident was no more severe than “wiping out on your bike.”
Buses were backed up four deep around the closed intersection for about 20 minutes as rescue responders checked out those involved and deposited the boy at the Funhouse, where he met his parents. Preysz said the boy was initially unnerved, but shook the incident off fairly quickly.
Freeman said PTSA president Holly King has already contacted him about possibly setting up a volunteer crossing guard program to guide after-school traffic.
“My idea is to see if we can have at least two people with the vest and the stop sign,” King said. “It’s not a huge time commitment.”
King envisions the children would stop at each crosswalk, wait for the adult’s signal, and cross safely in a group.
“I’ve seen kids come running down the hill and go straight across the road, and they don’t even look,” she said.
The school’s lack of a circular drive causes traffic to move in unpredictable ways as buses load and leave, parents swing by in their vehicles, and kids dart across the road to hop into cars, or to walk or bike home. King said the Funhouse Commons is interested in helping to run the crossing guard program, to provide continuity over coming years.
The Funhouse already sends a representative to walk a group of kids to the Funhouse after school each day.
Preysz said this was the first auto-pedestrian accident he has heard of at that intersection in his 22 years as a responder on Orcas Island, compared to around six accidents in the last 20 years at the nearby North Beach and Mt. Baker intersection. He said people tend to travel slowly and carefully in the school area due to the high pedestrian traffic, lower speed limits, and common understanding that it’s a school zone.