HUDSON — Sunrise was nearly a half-hour away as the children walked on the road to their bus stop. Utica Drive is narrow and crumbles in chunks on the edges. Dense woods line one side, deep sugar sand on the other. The children are supposed to trudge through the shoe-swallowing sand to stay off the road.
They usually don't.
At 7 a.m., Deanna Leggio, a 21-year-old Hudson woman, drove north on Utica, the same direction as the children were headed. Their bus stop was at the end of the road, on New York Avenue.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Leggio saw the children in her path and swerved to miss them — but hit two teenagers who were also on the road: Walter Edelman, a 15-year-old ninth-grade student at Hudson High School, and William Calder, a 13-year-old who attends Hudson Middle School. One or both of them hit the hood of Leggio's black 2000 Ford Mustang, shattered the windshield and landed on the road.
"It was terrible," said Richie Cox, 34, whose apartment is near the accident site. He watched as paramedics loaded the boys into helicopters and flew them to hospitals. Walter was taken to All Children's Hospital, William to Bayfront Medical Center, said Florida Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. Larry Kraus. Both boys were in stable condition Tuesday afternoon.
"They have some broken bones," Kraus said. "But, overall, they are doing fairly well."
Mike Goff lives next door to William's family at Ivy Chase Apartments, about three-quarters of a mile from the accident site. Goff, 34, was on Utica in his car driving his children to school when a student flagged him down and told him William and Walter had just been hit. The student continued running to tell the boys' parents.
Goff said he ran to the boys and stayed with them until paramedics arrived. He said Walter sat up and seemed to be okay. William was in bad shape, Goff said. His ankle was clearly broken, his body was battered and cut, blood streaming out of his mouth. He wanted his mom and dad — who arrived on the scene shortly after Goff. As they stayed with William at the hospital, Goff babysat their other younger children. Tuesday afternoon, Goff said he talked with William's mom, who told him her son had no internal bleeding, but doctors were going to keep him overnight.
"That street (Utica) needs sidewalks," Goff said.
"And a big, neon sign that says, 'SLOW DOWN.' "
Goff said he won't let his children walk to the bus stop at New York Avenue. He said the sand is difficult to walk through and your "feet and legs are covered in sand spurs."
Cox said children walk in the middle of the road all the time with cars whizzing past. "People go 60 to 70 miles per hour" down Utica, he said.
"I can't believe there haven't been more incidents like this," said Cox, who also wants sidewalks installed on the road.
Pasco County Schools Transportation Director Gary Sawyer said the New York Avenue bus stop has been there for more than a decade "without incident."
Sawyer said the school system is re-evaluating the stop, as is protocol when things like this happen. "We look for safe walk paths," he said.
Jack Greene, a supervisor of transportation operations for the school district, said the bus is slated to arrive at the stop daily at 7:12 a.m., though sometimes later. He said authorities were already on the scene when the bus arrived Tuesday and picked up about 15 to 20 students who were taken to Hudson middle and high schools. Greene said counselors were available for those students, if they needed to talk about what happened that morning.
Kraus said the accident remains under investigation. As of Tuesday, no charges were filed.
Times researcher Will Gorham and reporter Jeffrey S. Solochek contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.