Child’s death was accident

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 10, 2010

Two witnesses to the Thursday bus accident that claimed the life of a Florala girl told police, it was just that – an accident, Chief Sonny Bedsole said Friday.

The incident occurred shortly after 3 p.m. on Wood Avenue when a school bus ran over 8-year-old Lexi Worrell. Worrell was one of “at least seven” children discharged at the bus stop.

“This was the child’s normal bus when she rode it,” Bedsole said. “Most of the time she was picked up and dropped off, but on Thursday, she exited the bus and was attempting to cross the road.”

Bedsole said the eye witnesses – a 10-year-old and a 15-year-old – told police the bus’ safety arm was being retracted to the bus’ bumper when Worrell stepped out in front of it.

“This is where the investigation part comes in to play,” he said. “From what we have determined, it appears (Worrell) was under the bus driver’s line of sight. She was walking in front of the school bus as the safety arm was swinging in, and the driver just didn’t see her.

“As he pulled forward, people outside the bus began waving their arms to get his attention,” he said.

“He stopped, ran to the back of the bus and saw that he had run over the child.”

Grief counselors and ministerial counselors were immediately called to scene to help the children who witnessed the accident.

Covington County Schools superintendent Terry Holley said those same counselors, along with psychologists, were on hand Friday to offer counseling.

In a written statement, Holley said the Covington County Schools are “saddened” by the event and described Worrell as a “brave, resilient and smart and she will be terribly missed.”

Holley said the bus driver involved has been suspended pending a police investigation, and that counselors are available to anyone in the community affected by this tragedy.

Bedsole said the case will be presented at the next grand jury cycle, but “at this time, no charges are preferred.”