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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Student Hit by Car Declared Brain Dead

Tragedy: The Buena High freshman was put on life support after he was struck while running for a bus.

November 08, 2000|ANNA GORMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The 14-year-old Buena High School freshman who was struck by a car early Monday while running to catch a school bus was pronounced brain dead Tuesday morning, according to the Ventura County medical examiner's office.

Billie Brooks was being kept alive on a ventilator Tuesday night so medical experts could determine which organs could be harvested for transplant, said Armando Chavez, a deputy county coroner.

Chavez said Billie was pronounced brain dead about 11 a.m. by a physician at Ventura County Medical Center, where he remained in the intensive care unit late Tuesday.

The county coroner's office was contacted shortly after noon but deputies were told to stand by for several hours until decisions were made by the family and an organ procurement agency, Chavez said.

Billie suffered major head and internal injuries after being struck by a car while running across Telephone Road on Monday morning against the light. The impact threw him across the intersection, authorities said. He was running for his school bus, which was parked on Petit Avenue just north of the intersection.

The tragedy prompted some parents to say Tuesday that they want the Ventura Unified School District to take more aggressive steps to protect students from traffic hazards.

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Though parents said the district couldn't have prevented what happened to Billie, they say school officials could issue more jaywalking tickets, hire additional crossing guards and review safety rules with students.

Debbie Cole, whose two sons attend Balboa Middle School and Buena High School, said the district should set up more bus stops so students don't have to take shortcuts and cross major streets.

But Cole said it would still be difficult to get high school students to obey traffic laws, even if the stops were closer to their homes.

"I don't think there's any way to make sure they do it, short of walking them across the street themselves," Cole said.

Suzi Hummer, PTA president at Ventura High School, said the school district and the city should consider installing more crosswalks around the school. Though that wouldn't protect students in their neighborhoods, Hummer said it would at least help reduce traffic concerns around the campuses.

Both of Ventura's high schools are "on major boulevards and right in the middle of business areas," she said.

Suzanne Strople, whose son attends Buena High, said she believes Billie made a poor decision by running out in front of traffic and that the district can't be responsible for all students at all times. But Strople suggested that bus drivers get out of the bus and watch students as they cross the street to board.

Bus driver Yadira Garcia, who is filling in on the route Billie took to school, said Tuesday she wishes all students would follow traffic laws. Garcia said she tries to stick to her schedule, but always waits for students who are headed to the bus stop.

"I wait until all the kids get on, and then I leave," she said.

On Tuesday, students were especially cautious at the bus stop on Petit Avenue and Telephone Road. Several students showed up early and were careful to use the crosswalk, and nobody ran across the street.

Students said Billie's accident reminded them how dangerous the intersection is. There have been 52 injury accidents at Telephone and Petit during the last 10 years, according to the California Highway Patrol.

School board President Cliff Rodrigues said traffic safety probably will be brought up at the next board meeting. Rodrigues said he and his fellow trustees may evaluate what the district is doing to educate kids and to make the public aware about traffic risks. "And if that's not enough, maybe we should consider taking further steps," he said.

Rodrigues said parents, teachers and school administrators should consistently remind students to cross with the light and at the crosswalk.

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That is what Buena Principal Mike Johnson did Tuesday, as he consoled some students and warned others to be careful.

"This is an opportunity for all of us to talk about life and safety," he said. "We really are like parents. We admonish them. We teach them. But we can't be all places at all times."

For their part, both the Ventura Police Department and the city of Ventura are continuing to work with the district to ensure student safety.

There are school resource officers at both high schools, and one that travels among the elementary and middle schools. In addition to dealing with discipline issues, school resource officers try to prevent students from darting out into traffic near the schools.

Ventura High School's police officer, Monty Pulido, met with all the freshmen this year to review traffic rules and safety. He has also been handing out jaywalking warnings and $75 tickets.

"I just keep my fingers crossed before and after school and at lunch," Pulido said. "We've had a couple kids who nearly got hit or just got nicked. We are very lucky that we haven't had a kid fully struck by a car, but the potential is there."

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