A day after an accident took the life of a 15-year-old Palmetto High School student, the boy’s family is questioning why their son had to cross a busy intersection to get to school every day.
Myquarios Kelly, a student at Palmetto High School, died Thursday morning after being hit by a car while trying to cross U.S. 41. According to a Florida Highway Patrol report, Myquarios was crossing the street during a red pedestrian light when he was hit.
Dozens of family and friends of the teen gathered Friday evening for a candlelight vigil at the empty lot just southwest of the intersection of U.S. 41 and 23rd Street East, where the fatal crash occurred.
“I love all the love that is here,” said the teen’s mother, Romana Lang.
Never miss a local story.
Myquarios’ name was spelled out in tea-light candles with a photo and a sign in his honor. Those gathered surrounded the makeshift memorial to pray.
Residents of the Palmetto neighborhood said the intersection, where children cross in order to get to Lincoln Memorial Middle School and Palmetto High School, is one of the most dangerous in the area.
“We don’t even have a crossing guard at that light,” said neighbor Beverly Rios. “It’s tragic, just so tragic. This whole area is just sad right now. If it happened to him that easy, it could happen to some of those sixth- and seventh-graders who cross that road.”
Eric Armour, Myquarios’ grandfather, voiced similar concerns.
“They need to get something done,” Armour said, pointing out it was still dark when his grandson set out for school in the morning. “They need a crossing guard. (Cars) are running 60, 70 miles per hour.”
On Friday, Myquarios’ grandmother, Dolorse Wright, sat inside the house she had shared with Myquarios, watching as a friend folded stacks of her grandson’s clothes, preparing them for donation to Goodwill.
“It’s a wonder I didn’t have a heart attack when I heard. I can’t even go to his funeral. Doctor’s orders.” Wright said. “I just thank God he didn’t suffer.”
Myquarios’ father, Michael Kelly, said he had asked the school district if his son could ride the bus at the beginning of the school year. Because they live within a two-mile radius of Palmetto High School, the answer was no.
According to state policy, bus service is offered only to students who live more than two miles from the school. There are rules within the state education code describing exceptions due to hazardous walking conditions, but those rules are targeted toward elementary school students.
District spokesman Mike Barber said in Manatee, if buses have space for students who live within a two-mile radius, they will pick them up as a courtesy. He said district transportation officials do not have any record of Michael Kelly requesting transportation for his son.
Barber said the majority of the district’s high school students either get a ride to school or take the bus, and intersections near district elementary schools receive the bulk of the crossing guards.
Accidents like Myquarios’ are rare in the district, Barber said. He said a Bayshore Elementary School student killed while walking to school roughly 12 years ago was the last instance he knew of a student death while walking to school.
Michael Penn, a senior at Palmetto High, said he, Myquarios and a group of boys would meet every day outside of the cafeteria before lunch and eat together. They had just been joking with each other at lunch on Wednesday.
“You never see him have a bad day,” Penn said. “He’ll bring you up if you had a bad day.”
He broke down when he found out during fourth-period theater class, right before lunch, that his friend was dead. He met up with his group outside the cafeteria, like every other day, except this time without Myquarios.
A somber air settled in the normally noisy cafeteria.
“We were all feeling the same way,” Penn said. “It just felt empty.”