DILLWYN, VA (WWBT) - A family in Buckingham County is suffering an immense loss, after two young cousins were struck and killed by a tractor trailer while trying to get to their school bus.
Virginia State Police say the victims, Tori Perez, 5, and Jaiden Bartee, 6, were waiting for the bus with a group of other children when they darted out onto Route 15 near Baptist Union Road, Thursday morning. The children saw their school bus approaching, with flashing yellow lights. The school bus had not come to a complete stop, and the kids ran to cross the highway.
Police say a fully-loaded tractor trailer, carrying 75,000 pounds of mulch, was approaching from the opposite direction, traveling down a hill. Officials say the driver was not able to brake in time on the 55-mile-per-hour highway.
"It was not until he saw the two children run across the roadway in front of him, that he realized he had to stop. He just simply could not, because he's going downhill, fully loaded with 75,000 pounds of mulch," said Corinne Geller, a spokesperson for the Virginia State Police.
Tire marks extended from the top of the hill to just before the bus stop.
The children died at the scene. Their mothers rushed out of their nearby homes to the indescribable tragedy. Loved ones say cousins Perez and Bartee were like brother and sister, as their mothers are very close. They were waiting at the bus stop with their other cousins and their uncle, according to family members.
The Buckingham Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Cecil Snead said counselors and volunteer clergy have been brought in to help console the students and teachers through this tragedy.
"This is uncharted territory that I hope no one ever has to go through," said Dr. Snead.
The truck driver was not charged. State police say the 66-year-old male driver from Dillwyn, Virginia, wasn't speeding, and there weren't any violations with the tractor trailer impacting its ability to stop or avoid the crash. However, other equipment violations found caused the truck to be put out of service.
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