A second-grader student was struck and killed by a vehicle near a school in south suburban Chicago Heights on Wednesday morning.
Jackson Hill, 7, his brother and sister all were walking to school with their mother, according to Jackson's grandmother, Deborah Gwin Hill. They were crossing the street because of the water main break when a car turned the corner and ran over Jackson's foot, she said. The impact caused him to fall, and he wound up under the car, she said.
"We're stunned," she said. "We are just taking this one minute at a time.
"Jackson was a very loving boy. He was a good student who really liked reading. He was loved by many. He truly was."
The accident occurred at the northwest corner of 16th Place and Chicago Road, and the water main break occurred just that morning, Chicago Heights School District 170 Supt. Tom Amadio said.
The vehicle was turning west onto 16th Place from Chicago Road, while the boy was making a turn on the sidewalk from southbound Chicago Road to 16th Place, where the school of 600 students sits.
Hill, of the 60 block of West 15th Street in Chicago Heights, was dead at the scene, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's office.
Work crews still were on the scene Wednesday afternoon, the sidewalk was closed, and the street was barricaded.
"It's a tragedy. Our hearts go out to the family. He was a young kid, a good kid, with a lot of energy. He always had a smile on his face," Amadio said.
Jackson was taken to St. James Hospital, and staff accompanied his parents there, Amadio said. Counselors were brought in from all School District 170 schools as well as Bloom Township High School and Bloom Township, Amadio said.
At dismissal time Wednesday, there was a heavier than usual police presence, and staff escorted students across 16th Place to their parents, who waited there to pick them up.
Angelina Gonzalez said she usually does not pick up her third-grader because she works, but she did Wednesday "because of what happened."
Her sister, Anna Gonzalez, who dropped off her fourth-grader as usual in the morning, saw the commotion at the corner but was detoured around the block because Chicago Road was closed off due to the accident.
Many parents said they walk their children to school because 16th Street and Chicago Road both are very busy, and kids don't always cross at the traffic signal with the crossing like they are supposed to.
"That is why I do not let my kid take the bus or walk, even though I live close," Anna Gonzalez said. "There's too much stuff happening and I'm too scared."
As students left on the north side of the school, a staff member reminded them to cross at the light, but one older student just looked at her, ignored her repeated command and crossed between cars that were stopped for the red light.
"It's all right if kids do as I ask them. But kids cross in the middle of the block and there's nothing I can do," crossing guard Willie Walker said.
He was on duty a half a block away when the fatal accident occurred and said he knew something was wrong when he saw a crowd gathering at that corner.
"Kids don't listen, and oh, my gosh, cars just fly by on Chicago Road," said Diane Miller, who just picked up her first-grade grandson. "The teachers told him to hold my hand tight, and he is."
Most parents just learned of the accident as they came to pick up their students.
"It's just so sad," parent Jennifer Karn said.
A message on the district's website asked community members who might be aware of a student or staff member struggling to cope with the tragedy to contact Assistant Supt. Jill Raymond at (708) 756-4170.
There were no charges against the driver as of Wednesday morning, police said. The Suburban Major Accident Reconstruction Team was investigating the accident.