Child hit by school bus recalled as 'jolly' boy

April 21, 1994|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Staff Writer

Kawon West loved cake. And his neighbor, Patra Olu-Ajayi, loved baking cakes for the "jolly little boy" who lived upstairs.

Just a few days ago she had promised her young neighbor a cake all to himself -- as soon as he learned to ride his bicycle.

It was a promise Ms. Olu-Ajayi never had time to keep.

Kawon, 12, was killed Tuesday afternoon when he was run over by the school bus that had just dropped him off in front of his home on Kincheloe Avenue in Woodlawn. Baltimore County school officials and police continued their investigation of the accident yesterday as other school personnel talked with Kawon's friends and classmates about the tragedy that took his life.

Meanwhile, Ms. Olu-Ajayi was canvassing the apartments and homes in her neighborhood a few blocks from Windsor Mill Road, collecting money for flowers for Kawon's funeral. "Everybody knew of this little guy," she said. "Even when he was sad he would smile. I looked at him as a godson because I was fond of him."

Teachers and students at Villa Cresta Elementary School in Parkville were also fond of Kawon.

"He had probably one of the most engaging personalities we have. He had the kind of smile that would light up a room. He's the type of kid who you would not forget," said school psychologist Gerald Koth, who heads the crisis intervention team that comforted Villa Cresta's fifth-graders and the students in Kawon's special classes for children with hearing impairments.

Because he was hearing-impaired, Kawon left Featherbed Lane Elementary School, just blocks from his home, to attend Villa Cresta, which is more than 20 miles away. It has one of the county's programs for children with hearing problems.

With two hearing aids, Kawon was able to hear, Mr. Koth said, and he could lip-read.

"He loved school," said Ms. Olu-Ajayi. "He went faithfully." She remembered seeing him sitting on the apartment building steps many mornings around 6:30, waiting for the school bus. Some days she would take him crackers and apples. "He was just that kind of kid," she said.

By the time Ms. Olu-Ajayi got out front with a snack Tuesday morning, Kawon was already on the bus. She put the crackers and some books Kawon had left on the steps in her apartment, intending to give them to him when he returned.

"But by the time I got home, I didn't get to give him anything."

Kawon had lived on Kincheloe Avenue for about a year, Ms. Olu-Ajayi said. His relatives declined to be interviewed.

According to the police report, Kawon got off the bus around 4 p.m. Tuesday and turned right, heading for the back of the bus, when a youngster still on the bus handed him a paper through a window. The paper apparently blew in front of the bus and Kawon chased it.

The bus driver, Joseph Zysk, apparently did not see Kawon when he started the bus, police said. The accident reports will be reviewed by the state's attorneys office, as is routine with all fatal accidents, said Sgt. Steven Doarnberger, county police spokesman.

Mr. Zysk underwent routine drug testing afterward, a requirement in serious school bus accidents, said Rita Fromm, the school system's transportation coordinator. School officials will await the results before undertaking their accident review -- probably in May. Mr. Zysk will not be allowed to drive a school bus until the test results are back.

Ms. Fromm said she has not yet spoken with Mr. Zysk, 79, who has been driving county school buses for 18 years. She said she feared too much would be made of his age. "This is a gentleman who is just remarkable. He is very vital, very youthful. He lifts weights every day, he works two jobs, he loves his kids," she said.

Funeral arrangements for Kawon West are being made at March Funeral Home on Wabash Avenue.

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