Gulf High student, 15, struck after walking into path of teacher’s car

The student was flown by helicopter to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa and was reported to be in critical condition. Police do not believe the teacher is at fault.
Published January 9
Updated January 9

NEW PORT RICHEY — A 15-year-old student was critically injured early Wednesday after stepping into the path of a car driven by a teacher, according to police.

The student was walking to Gulf High School, which is also where the teacher works.

The student, whose identity was not released by police or school officials, was flown to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa for emergency medical treatment. The teacher’s identity was also withheld by the Pasco County School District and New Port Richey police.

The crash took place just before 7 a.m. at the campus boundary near School Road and Madison Street.

The collision sounded like two cars hitting each other, said Kasey Morris, 32, who lives nearby and went to help when she heard the noise.

Morris said when she got to the crash scene the driver was overcome with emotion and calling 911. The student was lying on the sidewalk and appeared to have suffered head injuries.

“I kept saying, ‘Just hang in there baby, help’s on the way,’” Morris said.

The student had a pulse but wasn’t breathing at first, Morris said. Then the student’s breathing grew stronger before paramedics arrived.

It is unlikely that any charges will be filed in this case because the 15-year-old appears to have crossed into the path of the teacher’s car, said New Port Richey police Chief Kim Bogart. Speed was not a factor in the crash, the chief said.

The student was found with their mobile phone and backpack. Bogart said investigators believe the student was listening to something using at least one earbud. But police could not say whether the student was distracted by an electronic device at the time of the crash.

The hospitalized student was reported to be in critical condition on Wednesday. The student’s mother did not return a request for comment.

The injured student used to attend nearby Gulf Middle. Friends there said the student was a compassionate schoolmate.

“He understands you a lot when you’re going through hard times,” said Jaden Woodward, 13. “He understands what you’re going through ... He’ll sit there and listen to what you say.”

Jaden said her father awoke her Wednesday morning to tell her what happened. Soon, texts started pouring in.

“It just overwhelmed me,” Jaden said.

Gulf High freshman Joey Gonzalez, 14, said the injured student is his best friend.

“He listens to everyone,” Joey said. “I basically see him as family.”

The teacher who was driving the car was with his wife, who is a counselor at the school, and their 7-year-old son. None of the occupants of the car were identified by police, however.

Pasco County School District spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said crisis counselors were made available for Gulf High students. The injured student’s friends were distraught when they heard the news, Cobbe said.

The teacher who was driving the car cooperated with police, Cobbe said, then was sent home.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story had incorrect information about the victim’s medical treatment.

Times staff writers Jeffrey S. Solochek and Doug Clifford contributed to this report. Contact Justin Trombly at [email protected] Follow @JustinTrombly.

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