11/15/09 — Grantham child dies after being hit by car

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Grantham child dies after being hit by car

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on November 15, 2009 1:50 AM

Staff and students at Grantham School will be mourning the loss of one of their own Monday.

Dakota Medlin, 10, died Friday afternoon, succumbing to injuries he sustained earlier that day when he was struck by an SUV on Stevens Mill Road.

Dakota was initially transported to Wayne Memorial Hospital, but was later airlifted to Pitt Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead around 3:30 p.m. Friday, said Highway Patrol Trooper Adam Fowler, the accident investigator.

Early Friday morning, Dakota was waiting for the bus around his father's home near Swine Road. Neighbors reported seeing him playing in a yard not long before the accident.

Then, sometime between 6:30 and 6:55 a.m., Dakota tried to cross Stevens Mill Road, a state-maintained, two-lane thoroughfare with a 55-mph speed limit.

The accident site is just a few miles from Grantham School, where Dakota was a student.

Witnesses reported seeing Dakota enter one of the deep drainage ditches that line the roads in the active agricultural neighborhood.

Dakota's entry of the ditch -- and then quickly jumping up from it to enter the roadway -- might have made it difficult for the boy to see the approaching traffic, Fowler said.

The vehicle that struck Dakota was a Chevy Trailblazer driven by Wendy Jones, 32, a Four Oaks resident, the trooper said.

Fowler added that the investigation is ongoing, but said he does not expect any charges to be filed against Ms. Jones.

Dakota was rushed to Wayne Memorial Hospital, where doctors worked quickly to stabilize the 10-year-old, in preparation for a medical helicopter flight to Pitt Memorial in Greenville.

He made it to Pitt Memorial, but doctors there pronounced Dakota dead hours later, Fowler said.

Ken Derksen, a public information officer for the Wayne County Schools, said he is not sure why Dakota crossed Stevens Mill Road, but said it was not to get to the bus stop.

Derksen said Dakota's bus stop was on the same side of the street as his father's home -- a fact he confirmed with the district's transportation director.

At Dakota's school, principal Lisa Tart said staff members are preparing themselves to help the 10-year-old's classmates deal with his death on Monday.

The school system's "crisis team" will make additional school counselors and psychologists available to students and staff starting Monday, Derksen said. The counseling services are expected to be offered for about a week.

Such services might be needed by students at the school, who tend to form tight bonds both among their peers and with their teachers, Mrs. Tart said.

"The students and the staff of Grantham School are very much like a family," she said. "The loss of Dakota Medlin affects everyone at the school and in the Grantham community."

People who want to send cards or other condolences to Dakota's family may do so by sending the items through the Grantham School front office, Mrs. Tart said.

Dakota's death has not just touched the hearts of the Grantham community, Derksen said.

"The loss of a student affects everyone in the entire district," he said. "There's not a parent or educator whose heart does not go out to Dakota'a family."