Sugar Mill Elementary student remembered: 'Outgoing little girl, very sweet'

The Port Orange community gathered to grieve the loss of a fourth-grader who died after she was hit by an SUV outside of her school last week – one week before the end of the school year.

Sugar Mill Elementary School students, teachers, and community members came together at First United Methodist Church of Port Orange on Saturday to remember the fourth-grade girl.

According to Port Orange Police, the girl was riding her bike in a crosswalk outside the school's entrance when she was struck by the driver of an SUV, who had just finished dropping off another student. Police identified the driver as a 70-year-old woman from New Smyrna Beach. The woman was interviewed by police, but no criminal charges have been filed at this time pending the investigation. 

That girl was taken to the hospital, where she died, police said.

"She was my friend, and she died," said Ben Quartararo, a fourth grade student and friend of the young girl. He and other students and parents are doing their best to cope with the tragedy. 

"A very outgoing little girl, very sweet, very kind, very mature for her age. She always asked a lot of questions. Very respectful," said Seth Quartararo, Ben's father. 

"It's just upsetting. You don't want to see that happen to anybody, let alone somebody who hasn't lived her life yet," he said.

Suzie Rodriguez, the minister who organized the vigil, said she hopes it helps the community to come together and know they’re not alone. 

"I do think that family and community are the answer to many things like this. And they need to know that they're not alone. That they're not the only ones that are feeling this way, whether it's pain, anger or upset or just fear," Rodriguez said. 

There is not a crossing guard located at the crosswalk where the deadly crash happened and parents would like to see that changed. A parent started a petition in hopes of adding a crossing guard or police officer and speed humps on the road. 

"Children are supposed to go to school so that they can feel safe, and they can learn and they don't. Even my kids don't even feel safe walking. They don't want to walk or ride their bikes. They're scared," said Rae Hill who started the petition. 

This is not the first time a child has been hit by a vehicle at Sugar Mill Elementary School. The Port Orange Police Department said they have three reports of crashes in front of the school. In the other two cases, the child had minor injuries. 

The district also added that another child was hit a couple of weeks ago, also with minor injuries. 

"We have no choice. We have to advocate for our children. They can't advocate for themselves. I think all of us are just trying to do what's right," Hill added. 

The sheriff’s office provides the crossing guards but does not determine their locations. Instead, a school crossing evaluation committee looks at all conditions and circumstances to determine the best distribution of resources, personnel, and safety measures.