Florida Highway Patrol photo
A Dodge pickup struck the 13-year-old during her predawn walk to a bus stop. The highway patrol says there is evidence the driver attempted to avoid hitting her.
BROOKSVILLE – A 13-year-old Brooksville girl was killed when a pickup truck hit her in the predawn light today as she was walking alone to a school bus stop, the Florida Highway Patrol said.
Kaitlyn Harper, a student at West Hernando Middle School, was walking south on California Street to meet some friends at the bus stop at Narrows Street and California, witnesses said. Harper had cut through a field behind her home to reach the bus stop; it was not the one assigned to her by the school district, her grandmother said.
There were no sidewalks, and the teen was walking about a foot into the street with her back to approaching traffic, troopers said. She was less than 30 feet from the bus stop when Mark A. Buel of Brooksville, in his 1991 Dodge pickup, struck her about 6:45 a.m., troopers said.
Crisis counselors were at West Hernando Middle School today to help classmates cope with the news of Harper’s death.
Patricia Bevins was with her 12-year-old daughter at the bus stop and witnessed the crash. She said it was dark, and she thought it was a dog she glimpsed in the road right before the collision. Louis Montalvo, who lives near the bus stop, said the pickup driver told him the same thing.
“There is some evidence there that he was braking to avoid her, to veer away from her, but was unsuccessful,” Sgt. Steve Gaskins of the highway patrol said of Buel.
Troopers said the impact sent Harper onto the shoulder of the road. She was taken to Brooksville Regional Hospital, where she later died.
Troopers are still investigating the crash. There are no signs the driver was impaired, Gaskins said, and both headlights were working.