Two young cousins running across a rural road to catch their school bus were killed when a tractor-trailer rig heading down a hill slammed into them, authorities said.
The children, 5-year-old Tori Perez and 6-year-old Jaiden Bartee, died at the scene. The rig’s driver had just crested a steep rise and was unable to stop his fully loaded truck, according to Virginia State Police.
The driver “immediately braked and tried to stop in time," said department spokeswoman Corinne Geller at a press conference near the two-lane highway. "He was loaded with 75,000 pounds of mulch and he was headed downhill in a 55-mph zone," she said.
He slammed the brakes when he saw the flashing yellow lights of the slowing school bus, Geller said, but it was too late. A group of older children had stopped on the roadside as the truck approached, but the two cousins had already bolted onto the highway, she said, apparently without looking.
The rig driver has not been cited and investigators said no one appeared to be at fault, she said.
A long series of skid marks scarred the highway. The truck driver and the families of the children were devastated, she said.
No charges will be filed against truck driver in Buckingham crash that killed two children. pic.twitter.com/xwd4TmtchW— Courteney Stuart (@CourteneyStuart) March 30, 2017
"It happened so quickly," Geller said. “If you can imagine... children can dart and move very quickly.
"Young ones will do that sometimes. Despite everybody’s best efforts to avoid this horrible tragedy, unfortunately it just couldn’t be helped," she said.
The school bus driver could see the truck coming in her rear view mirror and motioned for the children to go back, but the cousins apparently didn't see her warning, Geller said.
The devastation was witnessed by the children on the roadside and those in the bus.
“Our hearts go out to those children and families, having to deal with that information first-hand,” Buckingham County School Superintendent Cecil Snead told WCAV-TV.