04/21/06 — New lights erected at school crosswalk

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New lights erected at school crosswalk

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on April 21, 2006 1:47 PM

New traffic and walk lights are being installed on East Ash Street between Greenwood Middle and Meadowlane Elementary schools, where two boys were struck last year by a sport utility vehicle.

Tony Best, the state Department of Transportation's signal technician for Wayne County, said the work should be finished Monday. The new lights probably will not be turned on until Wednesday or Thursday.

"We're not doing this because of the accident," Best said. "It's just an upgrade."

The traffic lights will be larger, and the walk lights will have a special timer, he said.

The existing lights, wiring and panel boxes also are being replaced. Watson Electric Co. of Kinston is doing the work.

Two 13-year-old eighth-graders at Greenwood were struck at about 7:30 a.m. Nov. 18 by a white Ford Explorer as they used the crosswalk with the walk light. Both students, who live at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, were rushed by ambulance to Wayne Memorial Hospital, where they were stabilized and then transferred to Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville.

Mackenzie Wessels was released after about a week, and he continues to recover. Carson Thomas spent a much longer time in the hospital but has returned home. The man who prosecuted the driver, District Attorney Branny Vickory, said Thomas "was profoundly brain-injured."

The driver, a Guatemalan national, Wilder Fidelmar Mejia Alvarado, 20, of Bennett's Bridge Road, Mount Olive, was arrested at the scene. He was charged with four traffic offenses. Later the charges were upgraded to two felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury.

Mejia Alvarado pleaded guilty to the assault charges and was sentenced to 75 days in jail on each. Because he had served 136 days awaiting his sentencing, he had to serve only 14 more days before he was released.

Mejia Alvarado was released to probation officers who took him to Duplin County, where he lives, and put on an ankle bracelet to monitor his whereabouts.

Mejia Alvarado had six aliases, according to Goldsboro police. When he was picked up by probation officers, he used still another name, a probation official said.

He is expected to be back in Wayne County Superior Court on May 1 for a review of his case. He is expected to be deported to Guatemala.