Arlington girl dies on her way to school

ARLINGTON -- Residents of the Sleepy Hollow Apartments often worried about how their children would get to school safely and have talked about the need for speed bumps, flashing lights, crossing guards and sidewalks.

On Wednesday, their worst fears came true when Sarah Brazzell, 6, a Dunn Elementary first-grader, was struck by a pickup on her way to school.

"There needs to be a sign that says 'Children Crossing.' Anything to make them slow down," Deborah Knight, a resident of the apartment complex, said of the speeding traffic on Park Springs Boulevard. "They fly back and forth through here like speed racers."

Sarah was struck shortly before 7 a.m. when she ran onto a grassy median separating lanes of traffic near the intersection of Park Springs and Ichabod Circle, at a driveway into the Sleepy Hollow complex. The girl was hit by a pickup when she suddenly doubled back and recrossed Park Springs to return to her mother, who was walking her to school, police spokeswoman Tiara Richard said.

The driver stopped and offered aid, and nothing indicates that speed or alcohol was a factor in the accident, Richard said.

No charges are expected to be filed against the driver.

Sarah was taken by ambulance to Medical Center of Arlington, where she died, officials said.

Sarah was the first pedestrian or pedal cyclist ages 4 to 18 to be struck and killed by a vehicle this year in Tarrant County, according to the Texas Transportation Department. Three such fatalities were recorded last year in the county, and 17 since 2005.

Statewide, 256 people from that age group have been killed since 2005 while walking or riding their bikes.

Sleepy Hollow residents said they want the city to consider adding safety measures such as speed bumps, flashing lights or crossing guards. Some parents said the drive to Dunn Elementary is too dangerous, partly because of a lack of sidewalks.

Neighbors said motorists often speed while driving northbound on Park Springs. While standing at Ichabod Circle, pedestrians have a hard time seeing approaching cars.

City Public Works Director Bob Lowry said he is not aware of any recent complaints about the lack of sidewalks or other safety measures around Dunn Elementary.

Two other accidents -- one a hit-and-run and the other a vehicle collision, neither resulting in life-threatening injuries -- have been reported along that stretch of roadway the past year, police said.

On Wednesday, neighbors remembered the little girl who enjoyed playing on the complex's tennis courts. Sarah often played with classmate Ja-Quaylen Silmon, said his mother, Sherhonda Silmon.

"She would come knock on the door and say, 'Can he come out to play?'" said Silmon, 28, who has lived in the complex for 22 years. "She was a sweet little girl. We were all just crying."

Yolanda Zuniga, 30, said she could see emergency crews from her apartment.

"I looked out the window and I saw the little girl on the road," she said. "They were doing CPR. The lady that hit the little girl, she was screaming and crying. She wouldn't stop crying."

Arlington district spokeswoman Amy Casas said her talks with school staff about Sarah painted a picture of a "very sweet and caring little girl" who loved reading and writing.

"She considered herself a very good writer and was very proud of that fact," Casas said. "And she was a very social student. She loved to share anything -- share her ideas, share her things."

Dunn Principal Mary Helen Joeckel sent a letter home with students to inform parents about the accident and tell them that additional counselors were at the school Wednesday. Those services will be available throughout the week, she said. "Children often react strongly to an event such as this, even if they did not know Sarah well," Joeckel said in the letter. "Our counselors have reminded us that it's important to allow children to express their feelings about Sarah's death."

The letter also listed eight books on dealing with loss, including Death Is Hard to Live With by Janet Bode and Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson.

Casas said sending the reading list is district protocol for such incidents. "We want to let them know that we are available here at the school as a support system but also to let them know what additional resources are out there to help their children cope."

Staff writers Susan Schrock and Chance Welch contributed to this report along with researcher Cathy Belcher.

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