Reports detail accident that killed Chicago Heights boy, 7
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY firstname.lastname@example.org January 12, 2014 8:28PM
The corner of 16th Place and Chicago Road was closed off after a Washington-McKinley student was struck and killed by a turning vehicle while the boy was on his way to school Wednesday morning. Crews were repairing a water main break near the corner. | Susan DeMar Lafferty~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 14, 2014 6:17AM
The Chicago Heights School District 170 employee who was driving a district pickup truck when it struck and killed a 7-year-old boy in October told police he never saw the boy, according to police reports obtained by the SouthtownStar.
Meanwhile, a witness tried to warn the boy — who was attempting to avoid a mess from a water main break as he walked to school — not to go into the street, the reports said.
The same witness told police he thought the employee was driving too fast for conditions, according to police reports. But the Suburban Major Accident Reconstruction Team determined the pickup was “traveling at a low speed,” between approximately 13 and 15 mph, “which is not uncommon during a normal turn,” according to the SMART report.
The driver, District 170 supervisor of buildings and maintenance Ronald Mascitti, was not charged in the accident, which happened at 7:48 a.m.
The water main break in the street near Washington-McKinley School in Chicago Heights occurred on the morning of Oct. 23, and 7-year-old Jackson Hill, who was walking to school with his mother, jumped over the flowing water and into the path of a turning Ford F-250 pickup driven by Mascitti, the police reports said.
Mascitti told police that after he made a right turn from Chicago Road onto 16th Place, he “heard a thump” and stopped, not knowing what he hit. But he saw what he thought was a backpack in the road and heard screaming, according to the police report.
It was Hill who was in the street. The boy was pronounced dead at St. James Hospital at 9:07 a.m.
Mascitti told police he never saw anyone in the intersection.
“I’m sorry. I feel bad,” he told police in his statement later that day.
Hill’s mother, Kellee Walker, and father, Kenneth Hill, each has filed a lawsuit against Mascitti and District 170. Walker’s wrongful death lawsuit alleges that Mascitti was speeding and failed to look out for pedestrians. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and reimbursement for the family’s medical expenses.
One witness, Ronnie Mitchell, who was waiting for a bus, told police he saw Walker walking with her son, and when they saw a “large pool of water” in the street, they stepped back to find a way around it. The school is around the corner on the same block, but access was blocked because of the work on the water main break.
Mitchell said the boy then tried to cross the street by jumping over the water, but when Mitchell saw a school bus on Chicago Road, he stopped the boy, saying, “Whoa! Hold up,” thinking that the bus was turning right onto 16th Place, the police report said. The bus continued south on Chicago Road, but right behind it was the pickup truck.
“I was checking to make sure the traffic was clear when I saw the truck turning on 16th Place,” Mitchell told police. “When I tried to warn the boy again, he had jumped over the water into the street and was struck by the truck driver ... and the tires had gone over the boy’s body.”
Mitchell told police he thought Mascitti was “driving too fast for conditions.”
Another witness, Paul Palcek, a truant officer at Washington-McKinley School, told police the student jumped out into the path of the truck as it was turning.
The SMART report also noted that the front end of the pickup truck is higher than the young student, “which may have prevented Mascitti from seeing Jackson Hill in the roadway.”
The boy’s body was dragged about 19 feet, according to the SMART report.
Alcohol was not a factor in the accident, the report also stated.
The boy’s mother, who was with him at the time, declined to be interviewed by police.
Hill’s attorney declined to comment for this story. Walker’s attorney and school officials did not respond to messages.