SPRINGVILLE, NY – “This corner is the hub of this community," said Springville resident Diane Bookhagen, as she paused to add to what is a memorial composed of flowers, teddy bears, and candles, all in tribute to a little girl who was killed tragically Friday beneath the wheels of her school bus.
As the memorial to Alyssa R. Hearn, 7, continues to grow and sadness deepens over her loss, a sheriff's spokesman tells 2 On Your Side they are continuing to interview witnesses, and check out any videotape from nearby cameras that might help them determine what lead to the tragedy.
As well, we are told the bus, which they impounded, is being thoroughly inspected by state officials for any mechanical issues.
One downtown merchant told us that Hearn, a student at the Springville Elementary School, would get off the bus on East Main Street every Friday, in order to meet her mother who works in a hair salon across the street from where the bus stops.
Two sources tell us that it appears Alyssa and her brother got off the bus together---and walked in front of it to cross the street toward the salon.
Whether Alyssa –trailing behind—stumbled , dropped something and bent down to get it, turned around to get something she'd left on the bus, or simply lingered too long, ...is all part of the investigation into the tragedy, which occurred when the bus proceeded and she ended up beneath it.
Superintendent of Schools Kimberly Moritz would not confirm whether or not there was a bus monitor on the bus, and declined to comment on whether the presence of one might have prevented the tragedy.
Moritz politely declined an on camera interview on Monday, saying she was too busy with the requisite follow up work that needs to be done, and the tending to her school community, which she says includes faith based counselors, working in coordination with crisis management teams, at the schools. She also said those personnel are available to bus drivers, and that there was a meeting among drivers Monday morning.
Moritz described the response to the tragedy not only by Springville residents, but also those from neighboring communities as “overwhelming”, and in a brief phone conversation, expressed gratitude for their concern.
“There are three or four little girls on my street that knew this little girl,” said Bookhagen. “They have a lot of questions and one of the things I pray for is that their parents, teachers, and grandparents find the right answer for them… or at least give them some comfort in the days ahead."
Also not lost on Bookhagen is what the bus driver must be going through, and she remarked on a community effort to make sure the heartbreak the driver must feel is not forgotten either.
“There's a card drive going on right now for the bus driver, and we're just trying to get as many “thinking of you” type cards, to let her know the community is supporting her as well in this very difficult time. That’s my next stop, so I have to go do that,” she said, before departing the memorial on a sidewalk near where the tragedy occurred, on East Main Street between South Buffalo and Mechanic Streets.
Through its spokesperson , the Erie County Sheriff’s Office is refusing to release the accident report—he said because it’s part of the investigation—an investigation he says he has no way of knowing how long it will take to complete.
Calling hours for Alyssa Hearn will take place at the Smith-Weismantel Funeral Home, 271 E. Main St. in Springville from 2-4pm and from 6-8pm on Thursday. Her funeral will take place there Friday at 11-am.