Thursday, December 11, 2008

Girl Struck and Killed by School Bus

Hit in Elmhurst on Way to Francis Lewis HS

By Conor Greene

A 14-year-old girl was killed last week while on her way to school when a school bus struck her at a busy Elmhurst intersection.

Jasmine Paragas, an honors student at Francis Lewis High School who excelled in foreign languages, was hit at 8:10 a.m. last Thursday as she crossed 57th Avenue near the Queens Center Mall. She was pronounced dead less than an hour later at Elmhurst Hospital Center.

George Severino, 62, was driving the yellow minibus north on 90th Street when he turned left onto 57th Avenue, striking the girl in the crosswalk. The driver, who works for JEA Bus Company, stayed at the scene and was issued summonses for failure to yield to a pedestrian and for equipment violations.

There were four adult passengers in the minibus at the time of the accident, which occurred while Severino was transporting them to an education center for adults with special needs. He told the Daily News that he was too distraught to comment as he stood at the scene, weeping. “I’m sorry. I can’t talk right now,” he said. According to that report, Severino told police that he heard a thump, looked in the rearview mirror and say the girl lying in the intersection.

The driver has been involved in at least two prior accidents, according to state motor vehicle records. He was found guilty of an unsafe lane change in June 2007, and in 2006 was involved in a Brooklyn accident in which another person was injured.

Margie Feinberg, a spokeswoman for the city Department of Education, told the New York Times that Jasmine was a freshman who excelled in foreign languages and English. “She applied for and was accepted into the school’s University Scholars Program, which is an accelerated program for high school students at Francis Lewis,” said Feinberg.

The accident occurred just minutes after Jasmine’s mother had walked with her across Queens Boulevard, which is known as one of the city’s most dangerous roads for pedestrians to cross. Her mother had entered a subway station before the accident happened.

“She made it safe, but still this happened,” the girl’s cousin, Mac Tecson, told the Daily News. “It’s horrible. It happened so quickly. Nobody can believe it.” A picture of Jasmine was placed in a front window of the family’s house, which is just blocks from the tragic scene. A crisis team was brought into Francis Lewis to counsel students and staff as they mourned the loss.

According to reports, the family moved to Queens from the Philippines about six years ago and live on the top floor of a three-story house in Elmhurst.

Neighbor Showkat Kazi told reporters that the girl’s mother walked Jasmine across Queens Boulevard to the Q88 bus stop every morning. “It’s very hard for me… to take it,” he told CBS-TV. “She’s just like my daughter. She was playing at my house all the time.”

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