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A Brandon High School student was struck and killed Monday morning in front of the high school. KATHY MOORE/The Tampa Tribune
By LIZ BLEAU and SUSAN M. GREEN
The Tampa Tribune
BRANDON - Brandon High School awaits upgraded safety markings and signs to make students safer as they dodge cars, trucks and minivans trying to get to and from school.
Michelle Bragg’s son, Camden Allen White,
was killed outside Brandon High.
Kathy Moore/The Tampa Tribune
This morning before school, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputy Deputy C. Fluellen stopped traffic at the crosswalk located on Victoria and Meade streets.
Flashing lights, neon-green school crossing signs and a 20-mph speed limit during busy morning and afternoon rushes will warn drivers to be extra careful.
But that won’t help the family of 15-year-old Camden Allen White. White was struck and killed by a car Monday morning as he negotiated a crosswalk in front of Brandon High.
White stripes mark the crosswalk on Victoria Street at Meade Road. But no flashing lights alert motorists to beware of the many students walking along Victoria Street, and the speed limit is 35 mph.
“This accident should not have happened,” Francis Bragg, White’s uncle, said Monday outside the school.
“I know it’s a high school, but it should be no different from other schools,” Bragg said. “A 15 mph limit would have made a lot of difference.”
The accident brought disruption and trauma to a typically routine time of day for Brandon High students, parents and staff members. Students navigated the long lines of traffic, which was diverted around the accident scene, only to be confronted with the loss of a classmate.
“All of our students who witnessed the accident are traumatized by what they saw,” said Pat Canavan, a longtime school psychologist and member of the school district’s crisis team.
Canavan said the sheriff’s office interviewed five students as potential witnesses.
As White crossed Victoria Street at Meade Road, cars traveling west on Victoria stopped to allow him to cross, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office spokesman J.D. Callaway said. An Oldsmobile Alero being driven east on Victoria by Kami Bell, 22, of Valrico, hit White as he walked into the eastbound lane, Callaway said.
The impact threw White onto the windshield of a GMC Jimmy driven by Carmen Freytis, 50, of Brandon, who was driving west and had stopped to let White cross.
No charges have been filed in the accident, which remains under investigation. White’s mother, Michelle Bragg, said her son had been attending Brandon High School for a month. He had transferred from Tampa Bay Academy, a private school in Riverview that offers residential and day programs for children needing psychiatric care.
She said her son was struggling with attention deficit and bipolar disorders.
“He was a very good boy,” Michelle Bragg said. “I know mothers always say that, but he really was.”
Gary Tate, head of bicycle and pedestrian safety for Hillsborough County, said three years ago the county established a policy for all public and private schools requiring standardized school safety zones. Those include flashing lights and 15 or 20 mph speed limits when schools open and close.
Camden Allen White
The first phase of the improvement program is finished. Brandon High School is awaiting the second phase, Tate said.
He said people have complained about traffic around Brandon High School, many requesting a three-way stop at Victoria and Meade. Only drivers going south on Meade Road are now required to stop.
In the past two years, 11 crashes were reported at that intersection, sheriff’s office statistics show. Seven happened between Dec. 1, 2004, and Dec. 1, 2005. From Dec. 1, 2005, to Dec. 1, 2006, four crashes were reported.
When Michelle Bragg saw a TV news report about the crash shortly after her son left their home on Telfair Road, she feared the worst.
“I freaked out and put my daughter in the car and rushed to the school,” she said. “I just had a feeling it was him.”
Canavan was one of the school psychologists who met with students and staff Monday at Brandon High. A member of the district’s crisis team for 20 years, he usually dreads Sunday mornings. That’s when he sometimes gets word of weekend deaths and gets dispatched to a school first thing Monday.
Getting the call Monday morning, as students were heading to school, was worse, Canavan said. The shock was still fresh, and the accident was a stone’s throw from the school.
“Students are having difficulty [with the question] why did this have to happen? … Bad things don’t happen at school,” Canavan said.
White’s death was the latest in a string of student fatalities in Hillsborough County. But students seeking counseling Monday didn’t seem to be tallying the losses, Canavan said. Instead, the time and place was hitting them hard.
“The main thing is the total shock, both for the kids who knew him and the witnesses of the accident,” Canavan said. “It happened right here at school.”
Students who saw the accident were counseled not to drive the rest of the day, Canavan said. Most left school early, picked up by parents or friends.
Crisis counselors talked to about 25 other students in small groups, he said.
Camden was not well-known at Brandon High because he had been there for about four weeks, but he was adjusting well and building a reputation as an artist with a flair for animation, Canavan said.
“Camden had started off so well,” he said. “Everybody is talking about how great he was doing.”
School district officials said Assistant Principal Johnny Bush and another school employee, Ethenia “Lisa” Butler-Brooks, a health care technician, were the first to respond and try to revive White.
Gretchen Raulerson of Brandon saw the accident as she was waiting at the stop sign at Meade Road and Victoria Street.
She drives past Brandon High daily, she said, and often sees cars speeding along Victoria when the students are walking to school.
“I have often thought, ‘Someone’s going to get hit,’” she said. “There should be a light there or something.”
Traffic heading west on Victoria can’t go very fast during morning and afternoon rushes because traffic going into the student parking lot backs up, she said. But she often spots cars going east faster than the posted 35 mph limit, Raulerson said.
CASUALTIES NEAR SCHOOLS
•April 2004: Thomas Michael Priddy, 17, Riverview High School student, struck by a car driven by a fellow student and killed while riding his bike across Balm-Riverview Road on his way home
•October 2004:Rebecca McKinney, 16, Clearwater High School student, struck and killed by a pickup after getting off the school bus and trying to cross McMullen-Booth Road
•February 2005: Brooke Ingoldsby, 8, Sanderlin Elementary School pupil in Pinellas County, struck and killed by a sport utility vehicle after getting off her bus and trying to cross Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street North in St. Petersburg to get home
•August 2005: Elysha Jennings, 15, Wharton High School student, critically injured after running across 40th Street to catch the school bus
•January: Katie Wood, 15, Chamberlain High School student, critically injured while crossing Busch Boulevard on her way to school
•March: Arielle Serrano, 15, Plant High School student, critically injured when she is hit by a car in front of the school while attempting to cross Dale Mabry Highway
•October: Fredrick Gardner, 15, East Bay High School student, hit and killed by a car while riding his bike to school
Source: Tribune archives
Reporter Liz Bleau can be reached at (813) 865-1557 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
I feel so sorry for the Bragg/White family. I can not imagine the pain they are going through. It is a terrible shame the there are not speed bumps and posted school zone speed limits. I am sure there will be after this tragic accident…unfortunatley it is to late for Camden. Parents do not follow the signs coming in and out of the parking area either. There is a reason they are posted, please do as the signs say before another accident happens. My prayers go out to the family of Camden and students of Brandon High.
First - my thoughts are with the families involved in this, on both sides. Second - having just come from BHS to check on my son and see how he was doing, I couldn’t help but notice all the media at the school. Hopefully a positive thing will come out of this, like law enforcement being present. Law Enforcement - Try being at a different school, randomly, and start writing speeders and violators some tickets. Seems the only way to get a persons’ attenetion is to strike the wallet. I know law enforcement is stretched thin but I think sitting on a road waiting for a speeder is less important than being in front of a school making sure that the kids are safe. Solutions are out there to ensure this is not a common story that people have to read about or have impact their lifes. The difference is if you are just going to read the stories or start coming up with solutions. As parents, it becomes our responsibility to push for our kids safety. Lets come up with solutions….
I am a student at Brandon highschool and I was not shocked to learn that an accident occured infront of the school. The traffic infront of the school is deplorable. Both the non-existence of a school speed zone as well as the lack of a turning lane at the nearby intersection of Victoria & King cause traffic conjestion that is both frustrationg and irritating to the driver, but is also dangerous to students. It is extremely distressing to all people involved with the morning commute through this part of Brandon. I was, however, shocked to learn that a fellow eagle died. sadly, in this cynical world in which we live death is no longer what happens far away and to the old, this is a sad reminder that tragity can strick anywhere and to anyone.
This was very upsetting to me…. I can’t believe it really happened. Tommorrow i want to wake up and start all over and prevent this. Maybe if we would have said something about the speed limit sooner, maybe if there would have been school zone signs. I know this can not be controlled now for this accident but I hope our school prevents it from happening again. I don’t want to see something like this happen to another one of our students.
You are in my prayers..
To the family and friends of this child, my deepest sympathies and most heartfelt prayers go out to you all. I pray that this horrific incident will at least change the posted speed limits and prevent any future senseless accidents.
God Bless you all.
All eagles, past and present will be praying for the family of that student today.
Its very sad that an incident like this had to happen for the someone to finally take notice of an intersection that has been dangerous for years now!
I am a distant cousin to Camden. Michelle, and the rest of the family I am praying for you! This is a sad and Unfortunate incident! I pray God sends comfort your way through this time. From all of the comments I have read it looks like it is way past time for the school board to do something to protect these Kids.
I was the one who was driving the GMC Jimmy at the time of the accident. I just want to say that my thoughts and prayers go to the family.
My daughter goes to BHS. It’s sad when it hits close to home. I am not placing blame on the woman that struck the boy; however, if westbound traffic had stopped for him to cross, he probably assumed that the eastbound traffic would do the same. He is a kid. They don’t always think things all the way through. What in the world was the woman doing that she couldn’t stop for that boy to cross the street like the others had traveling westbound? Regardless, they do need signs. And they need a crossing guard of some sort. It is chaos over there in the morning. Ridiculous. My brother-in-law was pulled over in the parking lot of the school for a seat belt violation, meanwhile, a child is being hit and killed 500 feet away. Priorities!
This is a tragedy that never should have happened. My heart goes out to Camden’s mom and family. I can’t imagine the pain she must be going through.
Another sad thought is that the women responsibility of the loss of this precious life will probably only be charged with reckless driving and the family is left to pick up the pieces.
Speed bumps, the presence of law enforcement, these are things what will make drivers in school zones pay attention! Crossing guards can only do so much.
Something needs to be done. Too many children are dying on their way to school!
The sad part is that not even all elementary schools have the crossing guards. My son goes to Oak Grove Elementary and there are students crossing Hanna and there are no posted signs on either Armenia or Hanna for slow speeding zones. I guess only the rich schools get the sheriff and slow speed zones…. My prayers to Camden’s family. May God help you through this tragedy.
I lost my father at Christmas several years ago and that was bad enough. My heart goes out to this family. My son just turned 16. I can’t imagine the pain…
My heart is breaking for this child’s mother.
Cracking down on people speeding through school zones, should be PRIORITY ONE! Last Thursday, a woman going too fast, hit a man and threw him over my fence and into my yard. Had she been 10 minutes earlier she would have hit several elementary school students. The revenue from traffic fines should more than pay for extra resources needed to remedy this. Stick somebody with a hefty fine, and they will change their driving habits.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the young man who was killed. Why can’t they make that intersection safer? Of course now they will after the death of a child. It shouldn’t matter elementary, middle or high school, every school should have a crosswalk, flashing lights and someone there. Just because the kids are older doesn’t mean they don’t need that extra protection. Once again the family will be in my prayers.
Just last week I commented to my husband that I wondered why there are no school zone speed limit signs in front of Sickles High School ... kids cross the street there all the time and a student was hit/injured early this school year. This, unfortunately, answers my question of wondering if other high school don’t have school zone speed limits posted in front of the schools. Why is that?
Camden is my cousin and he was such a sweet little boy from the time he was born. Camden I am going to miss you so much. Michelle and Aunt Thelma, I love you.
My heart is broken for the family of Camden. My son got hit by a car last year. I thank God he just got banged up. We drop him off at school everyday because of his accident. I wonder why Deputy Dirk is in the parking lot instead of the front of the school making sure the kids are safe.
Having lost my 15 year old son Josh just this past April I know this pain all too well. Though there is nothing that anyone can do or say to make this pain any easier, I pray that the Brandon Community will show the same overwhelming support to Camden’s famliy as they did to mine.
To Camden’s family I know how difficult this is, please stay stong and know that the thoughts and prayers of me, my family and this whole community are with you.
I graduated from Brandon High in 2004; I remember how dangerous it was walking across victoria in the morning. As a sister of a student its very tear jerking that this could have been my brother.. I prey for Camden’s family and hope this sends a message to not only the county but the school board that every morning they are putting our loved ones in danger.
Something needs to be done not only on Victoria but also on Kings; between Brandon High and Mclane Middle School
I drive those roads every morning taking my son and two of his friends to school and can hardly believe such a tragedy happened there. I see cars flying by, turning left out of the driveway of the school turning on to Victoria during the time the signs clearly state not to do so. At the first of the year it seemed the resource officers marked vehicle detoured the speeding and ignoring of the posted signs, but I no longer see the officer and vehicle there on a regular basis. I am sickened by the thought that an innocent life was lost to careless driving. I hope this serves as a wake up call to all drivers, slow down and watch for all children.
My heart goes out the family for this boy. I am a mother of a freshman at Middleton and my stomach is in knots thinking what this family is going through.
I agree with all the comments. It seems like only elementary schools are ‘treated’ with school zones and crossing guards. Well, I think ALL schools should have school zones and crossing guards. It wasn’t until last year when a boy was hit beside Burns that Burns finally got a school zone on Bryan road. That is ridiculous! Why does something tragic like this have to happen before things get taken care of that should have been place all along?????
What I feel will be the best solution to is to add several speed bumps between the stop sign on limona & the light at Kings.
I agree with the last comment.. There needs to be mandated crosswalks for every school. I go by several schools per day and see kids walking across with no crosswalk. Keep in mind, people are in a hurry and are speeding to get to work. Camden paid the price for not having a crosswalk. Now his family will suffer during christmas without him. My heart goes out to them. Please make changes to ensure the kids safety.
My son is a Sophmore at Brandon High School (DeAndre’)There is a serious problem with traffic and speeding cars around the school. Most people drive faster than they should in the area. When dropping off students in the circle, the sign is clearly marked not to turn left (westbound)onto Victoria. People do it everyday! The speed limits needs to be lowered, there needs to be a crossing guard, even though the children are between the ages of 14-17 years old, and they are very capable of crossing the street. It is for the drivers that are not mindful of the students crossing on Victoria Street every morning / afternoon. God bless the family of Camden White!!!!
As a Mother , I weep for this childs Mother. I can not imagine her pain at this time.Her day probably started like any other and her life is changed forever in a split second!I pray that her family and friends gather round her and support her through this terrible time in her path that God has choosen for her!