Vehicle strikes Lebanon school crossing guard

A woman who declined to identify herself, center, apologizes to school crossing guard Willie Downing, 87, second from left, on Monday afternoon, March 4, 2024, near Mount Lebanon Elementary in West Lebanon, N.H. Downing was struck by a vehicle while controlling traffic during morning drop-off at the intersection of White Ave. and Highland Ave. He was talking with Faye Gillespie, and her daughter Maggie, 7, right, and John Stone, 11, and his mother Jenny Armstrong, about the incident when the woman approached to speak to him. She did not admit to hitting Downing. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

A woman who declined to identify herself, center, apologizes to school crossing guard Willie Downing, 87, second from left, on Monday afternoon, March 4, 2024, near Mount Lebanon Elementary in West Lebanon, N.H. Downing was struck by a vehicle while controlling traffic during morning drop-off at the intersection of White Ave. and Highland Ave. He was talking with Faye Gillespie, and her daughter Maggie, 7, right, and John Stone, 11, and his mother Jenny Armstrong, about the incident when the woman approached to speak to him. She did not admit to hitting Downing. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

School crossing guard Willie Downing, 87, gets a hug from a student during dismissal of Mount Lebanon Elementary in West Lebanon, N.H., on Monday, March 4, 2024. Downing was struck by a vehicle during student arrival Monday morning and students and passers-by called out with well-wishes and concern. Alice Barnes, has been a school crossing guard at the intersection of Dana and Maple Street for 17 years.

School crossing guard Willie Downing, 87, gets a hug from a student during dismissal of Mount Lebanon Elementary in West Lebanon, N.H., on Monday, March 4, 2024. Downing was struck by a vehicle during student arrival Monday morning and students and passers-by called out with well-wishes and concern. Alice Barnes, has been a school crossing guard at the intersection of Dana and Maple Street for 17 years. ""It is dangerous," she said. "These stop signs don't mean anything to (drivers) sometimes." (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

By PATRICK ADRIAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 03-04-2024 5:53 PM

Modified: 03-04-2024 7:31 PM


WEST LEBANON — Police are searching for the driver of a vehicle that struck a school crossing guard after failing to stop at a crosswalk on Highland Avenue on Monday morning.

Willie Downing, an 87-year-old crossing guard for Mount Lebanon Elementary School was uninjured after being brushed by the side of a car that was driving through the intersection of Highland Avenue and White Avenue, said Lebanon Deputy Police Chief Matthew Isham. Downing was controlling traffic for arriving students about 7:55 a.m. when he was hit, Isham said.

A vehicle traveling west on Highland Avenue did not come to a complete stop at the intersection. Instead, the driver slowed the car and attempted to drive around Downing, Isham said.

Downing, who approached the vehicle in an attempt to speak to the driver, was struck by the driver’s side view mirror as the vehicle passed. Isham said the driver did not stop and left the scene.

Lebanon’s school crossing guards are community members who are hired through the city police department.

“They are mostly retired people who are flexible enough to work those hours,” Isham said. “They are provided training in being a crossing guard, covering basic traffic control.”

The driver, if found, may face charges for failing to stop at a crosswalk and at a school crossing, Isham said.

Isham said the incident occurred around 7:55 a.m., near the end of the student arrival time.

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Mark Roux, whose house faces the intersection, said he must have looked outside just after the incident. He saw a handful of adults, including one woman who was consoling Downing.

“He is loved by everybody,” Roux said. “He gives high-fives to all the kids, he pets all the dogs and is friendly with all the parents.”

Scott Reed, who lives at the intersection on White Avenue, said that he provided the police with video footage from his security camera outside his house, which points at Highland Avenue and captured shots of the vehicle.

As of Monday morning the police had not determined the vehicle’s make and model but the investigation was still ongoing, Isham said.

This is the second time this year when a vehicle has struck a person in a school crossing in West Lebanon. On Feb. 2, a fifth-grade student was struck by an SUV while crossing at the intersection of Waterman Avenue and Route 12A to board a school bus. The driver, an 83-year-old woman, had failed to respond to the school bus’ flashing yellow lights, according to police.

Lebanon Superintendent Amy Allen released a statement on Monday urging residents and community members to exercise caution during student arrivals and dismissals from school.

“Our utmost priority is the safety of our students, staff, and pedestrians,” Allen said. “This incident is another sobering reminder of the importance of adhering to road signs and safety rules, particularly around bus stops and crosswalks. On behalf of all of our students and staff, I ask that you please slow down and be as careful as possible on your way to work and school in the morning.”

Patrick Adrian may be reached at padrian@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.