Three Ralston Middle School boys were still in pediatric intensive care at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto on Thursday evening after a Honda Pilot struck them as they left school Wednesday.
A fourth boy was discharged from the hospital Thursday. His classmates were still being treated for injuries, including a fractured pelvis, lacerated kidney and a head injury that required more than 20 stitches.
Principal Maggie O’Reilly visited the three students at Lucile Packard, bringing them flowers and get-well cards from schoolmates. She said the three were upbeat.
“They were worried about their schoolwork and worried about their tests,” she said. “They’re all recovering and hopefully they will be back at school sometime next week.” Ralston, located at 2675 Ralston Ave., went back to its regular schedule Thursday, and aside from the hospitalized students, O’Reilly said attendance was normal.
Wednesday’s accident occurred just after 12:30 p.m., as students left school after completing a day of standardized testing. An SUV — driven by 70-year old Mauro Yan, of Redwood Shores — rammed into a group of eighth-graders, injuring 13 and eventually coming to rest against the trunk of a tree outside the school gymnasium.
Yan was at the school to pick up his granddaughter, who was in the vehicle at the time of the accident. His family could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Yan is cooperating with investigators from the Belmont Police Department and the California Highway Patrol, who are gathering witness accounts and inspecting the vehicle involved in the crash.
Belmont police Sgt. Patrick Halleran said he expects the investigation to take several weeks and said there is no evidence that drugs or alcohol played a role in the crash. Halleran said police officers will be on site for the next few school days during pickup and drop-off times to help traffic flow smoothly through the parking lot that stretches the length of the school on Ralston Avenue.
After school Thursday, O’Reilly and her staff were out in force at 3p.m., directing the throngs of parents and buses through the parking lot to prevent another incident. Joan Bonello, who arrived 15 minutes before the end of school to pick up her seventh-grade daughter, Janice, said the parking lot is always packed with cars.
“They should have more space for all the cars,” she said, gesturing to the line of cars that stretched onto Ralston Avenue. “They also need to put rails up by the curb.”
Bonello was not the only Ralston parent calling for barriers to be placed between the parking lot and school buildings to protect students. “It would be a good idea to put up some barricades so no one can get through there again,” said Redwood Shores resident Tazim Ismael.
O’Reilly said that they are not looking into barriers at this point because the accident was just that — a tragic accident rather than a flaw of the parking lot’s construction.
Ralston students show support for injured classmates, focus on healing
Thanks to word spread on text messages, MySpace comments and phone calls, a number of Ralston Middle School students showed up for class on Thursday clad in white, as a show of support for the three classmates still in Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto.
And to support the students who knew the victims or witnessed the accident, 13 counselors from the Belmont–Redwood Shores School District and San Mateo County were at the school to meet with students.
Principal Maggie O’Reilly said the counselors were busy all day meeting with students, recounting the accident and talking through any anxiety they felt.
“We’re not going to downplay it — this was a traumatic event and they all witnessed it,” she said.
At least four of the students were back at school on Thursday, and like returning war heroes, they were given small purple hearts made by a parent for their bravery.
“They were here to heal and be with their friends,” O’Reilly said. “We’re all trying to heal and ready to move on.”
Parents were also talking with their children to help them sort out what happened.
Belmont resident Kathy Naverez said her 14-year-old son was very shaken up when he got home Wednesday, because he knew some of the children hurt in the accident.
“As long as he keeps talking about it — and I think he wants to — I think he’ll be OK,” she said after dropping him off Thursday morning.”
O’Reilly said counselors would be on campus at least through the end of the week and Reporting tests that were planned for this week.