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Police continue probe in fatal accident

TEXAS CITY — Police investigators on Tuesday returned to the scene of an accident in which an 11-year-old girl was killed as she waited for her school bus. Investigators wanted to check the lighting conditions as they would have been just before 8 a.m. Monday when a big-rig truck driver ran over Christina Lopez.

One of the things police wanted to know was whether the early morning sun, which would have been shining into the eyes of the driver as he made the turn onto the street where Lopez was waiting, might have contributed to the accident, police Capt. Brian Goetschius said.

Lopez, a Levi Fry Intermediate School sixth-grader, died in the 2900 block of 26th Street North after she was hit about 7:55 a.m.

The truck, driven by the Lopez family’s neighbor, had been traveling east on 30th Avenue and was headed south on 26th Street when it ran over the girl. There are no sidewalks, so Lopez was sitting in or near the grass on the side of the road waiting for her bus, which usually arrived about 8:05 a.m., her father said.

The girl’s parents, Nina and Manuel Lopez, complained about a lack of charges against the driver.

Police also interviewed neighbors, Goetschius said.

Tuesday was the first full day that school counselors met with Lopez’s classmates. While the accident happened Monday morning, the district made it a point not to make a general announcement about the girl’s death.

Instead, a letter was sent home to parents so they could talk directly with their children. The letter also informed them of the grief counseling available.

Still, not everyone in the district got the message about the sensitivity of the issue.

A school bus driver carrying a load of first through fourth graders apparently told students about the accident. In at least a few cases, the students were shaken by the news.

“He told the kids that a little girl died while waiting for the bus,” Shelly Wilburn, a mother of a Kohfeldt Elementary girl, said. “I had no idea what had happened, and (my daughter) was the one telling me about it.”

Wilburn said her daughter was nearly in tears.

“All she knew was that a little girl died waiting for a school bus,” Wilburn said. “She wasn’t able to comprehend what was going on. All she knows is that she rides the bus, too, and was afraid she would get hurt.”

Wilburn and other parents complained to school district officials.

“A bus driver discussing this situation or any other similar issue with students is not acceptable,” Texas City school district spokeswoman Melissa Tortorici said. “Our transportation department had a meeting yesterday and was briefed on the situation ... They were told not to have a discussion with the students about this tragedy.

“It is standard protocol for bus drivers not to have any discussions with students about student issues, and the drivers are well aware of this from their training.”

Tortorici said that the district would address the situation.

Meanwhile, friends and co-workers of Manuel Lopez, the girl’s father, are lending their support to the family by creating a fund to accept donations to help defray funeral costs.

Robert Lopez, who works with the girl’s father at Amato Linehandlers, said that the Christina Lopez Memorial Fund is set up at Texas First Bank.

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