MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — A Martin County middle school student is recovering after being hit by a car while riding his bike to school.
Deputies say the driver, 32-year-old Jennifer Scala, hit the 12-year-old Murray Middle School student near the intersection of US 1 and Lillian Court Tuesday morning.
Witnesses say the boy was in the crosswalk and had the right-of-way when Scala ran a red light, hit the boy, and kept driving.
Family of the boy posted on social media that he has a fractured ankle, and some scratches and bruises.
Scala told investigators she knew she hit something, but did not know what she hit. She kept driving because she was in a hurry to drop off her daughter at school, according to an arrest affidavit.
Scala is facing charges of leaving the scene of a crash without rendering aid and leaving the scene of a crash that caused property damage.
Witnesses say the boy’s bike was split into multiple pieces.
Another driver and witness, Phil Doherty, helped deputies find Scala.
He said he saw her run the light and he kept an eye on her.
"I watched the car while I called 911, and maybe 300 yards down the road, I watched her pull into somewhere,” Doherty said.
He followed the car to get a plate number.
“I drove down there. She was just pulling out from wherever she was, and I pulled my driver door up to her driver's door and said 'you just hit a kid and left the scene'. She said, 'Oh I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know what I hit." I said, ‘well, you hit a kid. So, stay right there, I'm going to take a picture of your license plate,” Doherty said.
Deputies arrived shortly after and placed Scala under arrest.
“There was little if any reaction whatsoever. She didn’t seem nervous or upset or excited in any way. She just sat there and waited,” Doherty said.
Now, Phil and some Martin County parents are questioning the safety of that intersection for students heading to school.
“That’s not a safe place,” Doherty said. “Kids should not be crossing US 1 at 8 in the morning.”
Students who live within two miles of their school and not along a route deemed dangerous by the state are not given a bus without paying more money to the school district.
At least one parent has written to the district leaders since the crash, asking the district to take more action to keep children from having to cross US 1 to get to school.
Wednesday the Martin County School District released the following statement:
We were extremely saddened to learn that one of our students was hit by a vehicle while riding his bike to school yesterday morning. While any type of motor vehicle accident is an unfortunate situation, a hit-and-run accident involving a child is exceptionally disheartening. District staff has been in touch with the student’s family and will continue to support them in every way possible as they begin the road to recovery.
We want to remind all Martin County residents that they are sharing our roadways with 19,000 students each school day - it is imperative that drivers exercise extreme caution and continue to be mindful and aware of not only our school buses, but students who are walking or biking to school in the early morning and late afternoon hours. Accidents caused by distracted driving are largely preventable when drivers take the time to put their devices down and pay attention to traffic rather than trying to accomplish other tasks while heading to and from their destinations.
We are grateful to the Martin County Sheriff’s Office for their work investigating this case and charging the person responsible for the accident.