JEFFERSON COUNTY, Mo. — A Jefferson County community is mourning the loss of a 6-year-old boy who died after being hit by a school bus Tuesday afternoon.
The Missouri Highway Patrol said the child exited the bus moments before it struck him near Oakland Hill Drive and Oakland Manor, about six miles south of Festus.
Investigators said the boy walked in front of the bus after the 61-year-old driver dropped him off. He was hit and killed as the driver pulled away to continue his route.
The boy was a first-grader at Plattin Primary School, part of the Jefferson R-VII School District. Tuesday was the last day before the district’s Christmas break.
Former school board member Glenn Kiepe told FOX 2 that he hasn’t slept well since hearing the news.
“I know everybody looks forward to Christmas and how the little kids are,” he said. “Imagine this being the last day of school before the Christmas vacation and then this happens. It just breaks my heart.”
On Wednesday, Keipe stopped by a memorial outside the boy’s school. It’s one of two memorials growing by the minute to remember the 6-year-old. Authorities have not released his name as of Wednesday evening.
Cassie Portell said her daughter attends Plattin Primary and played with the young boy at recess. Portell said she has talked with her children about the incident.
“We just actually opened up and had a conversation with them,” said Portell. “We were just honest because kids are going to be talking about this at school. Hug your little ones tight. It’s a tragic loss.”
Clint Johnston, the superintendent of Jefferson R-VII Schools, sent a letter to parents sharing the heartbreaking news. He let them know that even though the holiday break had started, there would be crisis counselors and “comfort” dogs at the school for parents and children who wanted to come by Wednesday morning.
Pastor Chad Smith of Cross Point Church in Festus also organized a prayer vigil at the school Wednesday night.
People were dropping off items and lighting candles at a second memorial at the place where the boy was hit and killed, near his home about a half-mile from the school.
Smith said the district is like “family,” and everyone is hurting.
A friend of the boy’s family asked that people not only pray for the boy and his family but also the man who was driving the school bus.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol’s crash reconstruction team is still investigating.