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Boy darts into busy road at bus stop, is seriously hurt

Hillsborough sheriff’s investigators work the scene of an accident Thursday at 1221 Valrico Road, in front of the Town and Country Mobile Home Park, where 10-year-old Christian Gonzalez was critically injured.

SKIP O\u2019ROURKE | Times

Hillsborough sheriff’s investigators work the scene of an accident Thursday at 1221 Valrico Road, in front of the Town and Country Mobile Home Park, where 10-year-old Christian Gonzalez was critically injured.

VALRICO — Pam Deems was getting her two daughters ready for school about 7:30 a.m. Thursday when she got a phone call from her best friend and neighbor, Amber Gonzalez.

Gonzalez's 10-year-old son, Christian, had been hit by a car at a school bus stop on the busy street in front of their mobile home park at 1221 Valrico Road.

Deems ran to the bus stop.

"Christian was lying on the ground facedown," Deems said about an hour later.

The boy, a fourth-grader at Valrico Elementary School, was airlifted to Tampa General Hospital.

He was hit by a 2001 PT Cruiser when he chased a small, yellow rubber ball into traffic on Valrico Road, a Hillsborough County sheriff's report said.

"Right now it appears to be an accident," J.D. Callaway, a spokesman for the Sheriff's Office, said Thursday afternoon.

Callaway said charges were not expected against the driver, Carlos Garcia, 65, of 333 Brandywine Drive in Valrico.

Christian's parents asked that no information be released about his condition, Tampa General spokeswoman Ellen Fiss said.

Earlier, sheriff's Cpl. Michael Cherup Jr. told reporters at the scene that Christian suffered head injuries that could be life threatening.

The bus stop is on Valrico Road between State Road 60 and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

It's a busy, two-lane thoroughfare lined with trees. Cars zoom by at 45 mph or more.

"They fly down here," said Deems, manager of the mobile home park. "It's not good for (the kids) to have to stand out there."

Deems said she asked Valrico Elementary School principal Mary Knox last year why the stop wasn't inside the neighborhood.

Deems said Knox told her it was up to the county to place bus stops.

Deems didn't call the county, and school district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said she hadn't heard of any complaints about that stop.

The district has come under criticism this year and last from parents for changes that moved some bus stops out of neighborhoods and on to main streets.

The Valrico Road stop, however, has been in the same location for five years, Cobbe said.

Robin DeHate, who lives in a subdivision down the road and passes the stop almost daily, said she often sees unattended children playing dangerously close to Valrico Road.

"They're running and goofing off here right on the street," DeHate said.

She said putting the bus stop there was a bad decision.

Neighbors said Christian is a nice boy who helped Deems with tasks around the park.

Meanwhile, Knox and counselors at Valrico Elementary talked to students throughout the day Thursday, especially the fourth-graders.

Three mothers who gathered at the bus stop Thursday afternoon said Knox had personally called them.

The school's safety officer followed the bus Thursday afternoon. At Christian's stop, he got out of the car and helped 11 kids off the bus. Most walked home alone.

Jan Wesner can be reached at jwesner@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2439.

Boy darts into busy road at bus stop, is seriously hurt 08/28/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 2, 2008 6:49pm]
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