Rosemore Middle School students were shocked last week to learn that a classmate had been struck by a vehicle and seriously injured while trying to cross Hamilton Road at Langley Avenue.
As sixth-grader Nathan Lawwill continues in his recovery, fellow classmates now can cross at the same intersection more safely, thanks to the persistence of the school's principal, Mark Trace.
The city of Columbus, which operates the traffic signal at Hamilton Road and Langley Avenue, has added more time to the light so that children in the area have more time to cross.
The accident occurred Tuesday, Nov. 6, as students were being dismissed for the day. According to Trace, several teens were crossing the intersection when Lawwill was caught in the middle of Hamilton Road, just as the light changed. Upon realizing he would not make it across, he darted back over to Langley but was struck as he tried to get back to the sidewalk.
Trace arrived at the scene moments later after being notified of the accident. Although the boy's injuries appeared to be horrific, Trace said, the teen was responsive.
"He was very strong," Trace said.
No charges were filed against the driver, according to Whitehall police.
The next morning, prompted by a call from Mike McQuate, whose son was among the students who had witnessed the accident, Trace called the city of Whitehall. He later met Bob Grim, of Whitehall's service department, at the intersection. They looked over the situation, crossed the street when permitted and timed themselves while pacing their stride.
Trace said he felt strongly that the walk light was too short to allow students to cross safely and asked Grimm what they could do to solve the problem.
Grimm contacted the city of Columbus, which also sent service members to the intersection to examine the light's timing, deciding to lengthen it -- but only when the crosswalk button is pushed by a pedestrian.
By 2:15 p.m., the light had been changed, doubling the amount of time pedestrians have to cross Hamilton at Langley -- as long as the crosswalk button is pushed.
The accident had occurred less than 24 hours prior.
Trace said although he and other staff members frequently remind the students about the dangers of crossing busy streets, the accident's message to students had a more sobering effect. But he hopes the longer signal would help students get across Hamilton Road more safely, avoiding any more tragedies.
"I always tell the kids, 'We can't play Frogger at Hamilton Road because it doesn't always work for the frog.' We talk about this all the time," Trace said.
Clint Hikes, the father of a student who also was attempting to cross the street at the time of the accident, said he was thankful that his son was not injured. Hikes said although his son was shaken at the time of the accident, he seems to be doing OK, all things considered.
Whitehall City Schools Superintendent Judyth Dobbert-Meloy commended Trace during this month's school board meeting for his quick response, praising him for his attentiveness and persistence.
"In this situation, Mark showed great leadership, not just at the time of the accident itself but also in terms of following up immediately with the other students at the school to discuss safety," she said.
She also applauded city officials for their efforts.
"We are very appreciative of the city, in particular, Bob Grimm, who immediately responded to the situation and worked with the city of Columbus to make this change."
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 4,000 people were killed in pedestrian crosswalk accidents in 2010, and an estimated 70,000 were injured.
Some 41 percent of those accidents occur between 3 and 4 p.m., when most children are leaving school.