LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – A normal morning waiting for the bus turned into an unthinkable moment for so many Thursday in the Parkland neighborhood.
Police said a driver of a Cadillac Escalade didn't see a school bus stopping ahead of him and swerved to miss it. That's when they said he drove onto the sidewalk at 32nd and Dumesnil and hit three children waiting for their buses. All three kids were rushed to Norton Children’s Hospital, two of them in critical condition and the other in serious.
The driver of the SUV also had serious injuries. Police said he will be charged with no insurance and no registration.
WHAS11 hasn’t been notified of the third child’s name, but he goes to Engelhard Elementary. According to their family and friends, the other two children are siblings Vanessa and Joc Johnson. Vanessa, 9, is in fourth grade. Joc, 10, is in fifth grade. They both go to Dixie Elementary. Their mother, Lakeisha Johnson, said the two are both still recovering at Norton Children’s Hospital. She said Vanessa was actually stuck under the SUV and is in a medically-induced coma in the ICU. Johnson also told WHAS11 Joc will likely go home sometime next week, but Vanessa will probably need to stay there for several months.
“We’re taking it minute by minute. It’s not even a day by day thing. The first three days are extremely crucial,” family friend Lanita Gant said. “There will be a long road of recovery for the kids.”
As for the other boy hurt in the crash, Johnson said he is out of the hospital. She and other loved ones of Vanessa and Joc said they'd really love to meet with him and his family so they can get through this tough time together.
Saturday afternoon, Johnson and several other family and friends gathered at the crash scene to tell WHAS11 more about Vanessa and Joc. They said the siblings are straight A students with very positive attitudes. They're both on the cheer team and keeping that natural spirit up even through this challenge.
“Joc can tell you things that you would never dream of for sure. He just kind of lit fire to the psychiatrist that was there yesterday. He’s a very brilliant and very smart kid,” Gant said. “Vanessa is very feisty, very athletic, always has been. She’s still feisty now in a medically-induced coma, still feisty.”
Still, their family worries about the lasting impact from something like this.
“This is their bus stop every day, and you don’t know how far the traumatizing part will go. Will these kids ever be able to get on a bus again or stand physically on a bus stop?” Gant said. “They’re typical children, and at this point, they can’t do they do the things that they used to do. There’s a lot. There’s not just the physical injuries there. There are emotional injuries, as well.”
They are also concerned about how this crash will affect other children who witnessed it or heard what happened.
“Although three children were actually hurt, there’s tons of children that are traumatized behind this,” Gant said. “You don’t have to know them to know that it’s upsetting. If you have children or you’re just a human being, this is sad.”
The family said it's not blaming JCPS for this incident at all, but Johnson said she has tried to get her kids' bus stop location changed several times in the past. She didn't think the intersection was as safe as another area closer to her house.
“I called last year. I called this year. I work, so my kids are responsible enough to walk to the bus stop by themselves. I complain and nothing gets done," Johnson said. “My daughter and my son are very responsible kids. So, I trust them enough to walk to the bus stop by themselves, but I can’t trust the school system to keep my kids safe and at least let them get to a safer bus stop.”
Gant said she hopes everybody can learn from this incident and pay more attention to the road.
“As a community, we have to do something different as far as paying more attention to these buses when they’re out here. They’re out here for a reason. They’re out here picking up these children,” Gant said.
She’s also asking for the community’s continued support.
“Mom still has to work. There are still bills that have to be paid. It’s a lot. We’re going to need a lot from the community,” Gant said.
Here is a link to the family’s GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/prayers-for-jaconiah-and-vanessa-2vdfz5ys?ssid=779332857&pos=1