TAMPA — Deloris Taylor wept in the passenger seat of her 2000 Mercedes-Benz, parked just outside the stone face of the St. James Episcopal House of Prayer on Friday.
Minutes before, the 77-year-old had been driving west on E Columbus Drive when 2-year-old Bryce King ran into the street from behind his house.
She never saw him, police said. A thump and a rolling sound made her stop the car.
Niya Smith, who had been driving behind Taylor, said she saw Bryce dart into the street as fast as his tiny legs would propel him.
Instinctively, the 19-year-old University of South Florida student had hit the brakes — but Taylor didn't until it was too late.
Bryce's tiny body rolled under the Mercedes, ending up in the middle of the intersection of Columbus Drive and Central Avenue.
Smith said she jumped out of her car and called for help on her cell phone. That's when Smith first saw the boy's mom, Utara King, rush out of the house to her son, she said.
"She was screaming for someone to call 911," Smith said.
Police arrived first and performed CPR on Bryce, whose pulse was faint as paramedics rushed him to St. Joseph's Children's Hospital, said Lt. Bill Ferguson of the Tampa police.
On Friday night, the child was listed in stable condition with a head injury and several fractures. Ferguson said the toddler had been dragged about 30 feet.
Taylor was not cited in the accident.
King told police she had cautioned her son to stay in the parking lot behind their little yellow duplex at 501 E Columbus Drive as she put her infant into a swing. But he took off running.
About 23 children ages 3 through 5 from the Children with Joy Learning Center at the church were playing games such as red light/green light in the grass lot across the street from King's home when the accident happened, said Denise Petty, one of the preschool's teachers.
She heard the impact, looked over and saw Bryce in the road.
"We brought the kids inside because we didn't want them to get upset by the sirens and the screaming," Petty said.
Once inside, the teachers did a second roll call and reviewed a traffic safety lesson about always holding an adult's hand when crossing the street and looking both ways.
But still, the children wondered what would happen to Bryce. Even though the teachers were unsure, they said he would be okay.
Taylor of Tampa sat in her car until the only evidence left in the intersection was Bryce's little white training underwear and a blue and white onesie. But she wouldn't sit behind the wheel.
"It's really sad," Smith said. "He's just a baby only 2 years old."
Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Robbyn Mitchell can be reached at (813) 226-3373 or firstname.lastname@example.org.