LAKELAND (FOX 13) - A middle schooler is being hailed a hero after he pulled his friend out of the way of a car as it allegedly ran a stop sign.
Matthew Wilhoite and his friend Brandon Metz were crossing Route 540 at Farmer Brown Road when a car disobeyed their school bus' stop signal, and hit them with the passenger side mirror, which went flying.
Matthew, an eighth grader at Crystal Lake Middle School, said the car ran over his foot and he had some scrapes on his arm. But it could have been much worse if Matthew hadn't pulled Brandon out of the way, he told FOX 13 News.
"I look over, see the car a few feet away, pull him back, he gets hit, I get hit, spun me around into the car," Matthew said. "I almost died. But I am still alive," Brandon said.
Brandon made it to school, but Matthew's mother took him to the hospital.
"The speed limit down here is 50 miles an hour," Matthew's mother, Brenda Smith said. "If he was actually going 50, and hadn't slowed down, I would probably be identifying my son at the morgue."
Deputies cited the driver for failing to stop.
Matthew's parents hope their son's close-call is a reminder to every family and driver in the Bay Area.
"They need to teach their kids to pay more attention to their surroundings," said Smith. "The stop sign on those school buses is there for a reason."
It was certainly a lesson to Brandon and Matthew.
"I know I am lucky," Matthew said. "Every time I think about it, I just can't believe it."
Smith, meanwhile, is going to ask the school district to change this bus stop from the corner, to a nearby parking lot so the kids no longer have to cross the busy road. The district says the transportation department would have to decide on any changes to the route.