Tragedy on the roads: West Rowan 17-year-old Makinzy Smith remembered
The 17-year-old West Rowan High School student who was killed early Thursday morning on Woodleaf Road was full of life and always smiling, his family said.
Makinzy Jordan Smith was waiting for the school bus around 6:35 a.m., when it was still dark. He started crossing the road to board the bus and was struck by a Honda Civic driven by Barbara Harrison Smith.
The accident occurred just beyond Roxanne’s Beauty & Tanning Salon on Woodleaf Road, near Godbey Road.
The N.C. Highway Patrol charged Barbara Smith, 57, of the 1600 block of Goodson Road, with felony passing a stopped school bus causing death. The Highway Patrol took her to the Rowan County Magistrate’s Office, where she was given a $1,000 bond.
She came out of the office with the hood of her jacket pulled over her head. Relatives had been seen consoling her at the scene. Still shaken after being charged, she was clutching tissues and crying.
Barbara Smith will make her first appearance in court Oct. 21.
There is no indication that the victim and the driver are related.
Family members of Makinzy Smith were also at the scene and consoling one another. According to an obituary submitted by the family, Makinzy had aspirations of becoming a video game designer. “He had strong beliefs in God, family and friends,” his family said.
A visitation for Makinzy will be held Saturday at Summersett Funeral Home from 4 p.m.-6 p.m. and a funeral will follow in the Summersett Memorial Chapel.
School, family life
Makinzy was part of the high school’s cabinet making/woodworking class. His teachers said his strengths were in writing and he was “very artistic.” He was a junior at the school, located in Mount Ulla.
“He was always eager to learn and was curious in nature,” Rowan-Salisbury School officials said in a statement.
Makinzy enjoyed 1950s music and up until this year was involved in the JROTC program.
School system spokeswoman Rita Foil said the school district’s Crisis Intervention Team arrived on the school’s campus shortly after the accident occurred. Ten counselors were on hand to meet with students individually and in groups.
Counselors will be available for as long as they are needed, Foil said.
There were about 20 students aboard the school bus who witnessed the accident. The students were put on another bus and taken to school.
The school system has extended its support to Makinzy Smith’s family, Foil said.
His family said Makinzy always had a smile on his face and “loved unconditionally, as he was loved unconditionally in return.”
The stopped school bus was headed east on Woodleaf Road, and Barbara Smith’s Honda Civic was traveling westbound, said First Sgt. Frank Ferguson of the N.C. Highway Patrol.
Ferguson said Barbara Smith did not stop as the teenager was crossing the road.
A wreck reconstruction team interviewed witnesses, including the bus driver, and mapped the area.
Ferguson said the bus driver did everything she was supposed to do, coming to a complete stop, putting on her lights and releasing the stop arm.
A witness, James Cottrell, was on his way to work, traveling two cars behind the school bus on Woodleaf Road. He said the bus driver turned on her lights, came to a complete stop and extended the stop arm.
From what he could tell, he said, Barbara Smith did not slow down.
“I heard the impact and I realized a boy — a child — had been hit,” he said.
Cottrell said he jumped from his vehicle and ran to Makinzy, who was on the ground about 50 to 100 feet from where he was initially hit.
“He wasn’t moving and was gasping for breath,” Cottrell said.
He said it was a hard scene to see. He called 911 for help.
Cottrell had never performed CPR before, but he tried as he was directed by the 911 dispatchers.
He was still shaken by the whole scene as he spoke with news media following the accident.
“I don’t know if there was anything else I could’ve done,” Cottrell said.
He said most cars that travel through that stretch of road speed. Investigators have not said if speed was a factor in this crash, but say it does not appear Barbara Smith was traveling faster than the posted 55 mph speed limit.
Ferguson said the crash is still being investigated and officials will have to determine if speed or inattention was a factor.
Cottrell said he did not hear the driver attempt to apply the brakes or stop. Investigators have not said whether Smith tried to stop or slow down.
The bus driver was not at fault, Cottrell told reporters. The bus driver, who also appeared to be shaken, was seen at the scene speaking with Highway Patrol and school officials. School officials were also at the scene.
Foil, the schools’ spokeswoman, said Thursday morning there was a crisis team at West Rowan High to help students, especially Makinzy’s close friends. She spoke with Makinzy’s parents and grandparents Thursday morning.
She said if there is any message that could be shared it would be that students are on the roads in the mornings and in the afternoons and “we all just have to be very, very careful and watch out for them.”
Foil mentioned another West Rowan High student who was killed in a traffic-related accident a number of years ago. In 2009, West Rowan senior Joe Hampton was killed after he lost control of his truck on Woodleaf Barber Road.
Just last year on the first day of school, two West Rowan sophomores Cody Rives and Terry Johnson were killed on Sherrills Ford Road at the Second Creek bridge while leaving school.
School bus laws
A new law that just signed by Gov. Pat McCrory makes it a felony for drivers to pass a stopped school bus. Drivers who violate this law and cause a death or injury face a stiffer penalty and higher fines. The law was signed by the governor in July and named after Forsyth County student Hasani Wesley, who was killed while boarding a school bus.
N.C. law states that the driver of any vehicle approaching from any direction on the same street must come to a full stop.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253. Twitter: www.twitter.com/salpostpotts Facebook: www.facebook.com/Shavonne.SalisburyPost.