LAKELAND (FOX 13) - A George Jenkins High School student died Monday morning after getting hit by a car on the way to his bus stop. In a tragically ironic twist, the driver who hit the student is a supervisor for Polk County crossing guards.
17-year old Kalen Kirk was a junior at George Jenkins High School. His father, who works for Polk County Schools, says his son was a "fantastic young man" who will be extremely missed. Kalen had just celebrated a birthday last week, and had dreams of attending college and playing on his high school basketball team this year. His father says he has full faith that the Polk County Sheriff's Office will conduct a full and thorough investigation into the accident.
Polk County deputies say Kirk darted across Clubhouse Road near the intersection with Summerland Hills Drive around 6:18am to catch his bus. The driver was heading eastbound on Clubhouse Drive and was unable to stop in time.
"According to witnesses, she did everything she could to avoid striking him. She was unable to avoid him," Polk County Sheriff's Office's Carrie Eleazer said Monday afternoon.
Eleazer says the driver has worked for PCSO for the past twenty years. Currently, she's one of two supervisors in charge of the school district's 200 crossing guards. She is not expected to face any charges, but the investigation is ongoing.
"Her whole career has been dedicated to crime prevention and safety, especially to children. It's tragically ironic that she was involved in this. I know she's completely heartbroken and devastated," Eleazer said.
Residents who live close to the accident scene say the area is very dangerous for children. The area is dark when high school students head to the bus stop, and there are limited streetlights. The speed limit is 45 miles per hour, and there is no crosswalk or school bus signs to warn drivers of children in the area.
"This morning when I was leaving, I saw a bunch of police cars. I thought, 'Oh, something happened.' It came to my mind. I knew that something big was going to happen on this road," resident Jose Rodriguez said Monday.
A spokesperson for Polk County Schools says the Transportation Services department is reviewing the bus stop location and will make changes if they deem it necessary. They say they have not received prior complaints about the intersection.
A memorial was set up outside of the Summerland Hills subdivision, near the accident site, late Monday afternoon. Friends of Kalen are planning a vigil there for Tuesday night at 7:30pm. Grief counselors were available at George Jenkins High School on Monday.