ST. PAUL, Minn. - A 50-year-old man is being held by police after losing control of his SUV near Harding High School Thursday and fatally striking a student.
Police and classmates identified the victim Clarisse Grime, a 16-year-old who had just completed her sophomore year at Harding. She was at the school Thursday for a summer school program, which had ended shortly before the accident.
The driver was headed east on 3rd Street, when he attempted to turn left onto Hazelwood Street. According to St. Paul Police spokesperson Howie Padilla, the man took the corner too sharply and lost control of his truck.
The vehicle knocked over a fire hydrant, jump a curve, knocked down a sign and then careened down a steep embankment onto the Harding High grounds.
Grime and classmate Eduardo Vasquez-Torres were sitting at the bottom of that embankment in the shade of a tall tree, while waiting for a bus to arrive. They had no time to react to the truck before being struck.
Grime was pronounced dead at the scene, while Vasquez-Torres was treated at Regions Hospital and later released.
"They were minding their own business, just sitting there, and that car, truck, just came, started flying!" Ashley Moore, one of several nearby residents who ran to the scene, told KARE.
Moore said the boy was screaming for someone to call an ambulance.
"We're sitting there right by her, and, just praying to God that can still just breath," she recalled. "The boy was like hysterical. He was like, 'Listen to the sound of my voice! Please be alive'!"
She described the driver, who waited for police to arrive, as shocked and speechless. Padilla said it appeared excessive speed contributed to the accident, but said it was too early to gauge how fast the driver was going.
By evening other Harding students began dropping off roses, flowers at the high school's main sign, and looking at the tire tracks that led down the embankment to the spot where their classmate died.
"I saw her in class every day," Megan Hutchinson told KARE. "It's sad to know she's not going to be there."
Two ninth grade boys visited the site and broke into tears when shown a yearbook photo of Grime. They said they were too grief stricken to speak on camera, but told reporters their friend was a happy girl who seemed to always have a smile on her face.
The Saint Paul Public Schools will have counselors at Harding Friday to help students deal with the tragedy, according Jackie Turner, the district's director of family engagement.
Speed was a factor in the crash, according to preliminary reports from police. Several residents in the neighborhood told KARE speeding has been a persistent problem on that section of 3rd Street East near the high school, which is posted at 30 miles per hour.
City Council President Kathy Lantry told KARE she wasn't aware of any recent attempts to convert the tee intersection of 3rd and Hazelwood into a three-way stop.
"Speeding is the number one complaint my office receives, by far," Lantry said. "But it's not just 3rd street. It's just about every street in my area of the City."
She noted curbing a speed-plagued area isn't always a matter of engineering or signals. It also requires education and enforcement.
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