By Deanna Fené
First Coast News
LAKE BUTLER, FL -- Six months ago, tragedy struck a small town on the First Coast. Seven children were killed in a crash in Lake Butler. A semi-truck rear-ended a car full of children before slamming into a stopped school bus.
Six months later, a monument still stands at the crash site off Highway 121 just south of Lake Butler. There are seven markers, one for each child killed.
The Mann family lost four of their children that day. 15-year old Nikki, 15-year old Elizabeth, 13-year old Johnny and 3-year old Heaven. The family was in the process of adopting 20-month old Anthony Lamb. The Mann's nieces, 13-year old Ashley Keen and 8-year old Miranda Finn also died.
The two-lane road where the crash happened is still a busy highway with lots of trucks and other vehicles passing down the road. The monument serves as a reminder to drive safely. The message is written in large letters on the marker next to each victim's name.
14-year old Roman West was on the school bus the day of the crash.
"I remember hearing a loud crash from behind, another kid on the bus said he heard a horn, no one else did. Just a bang and the bus spinning."
Roman was okay, but his brother was thrown from the back of the bus onto the road and suffered more serious injuries.
Roman knew three of the seven children killed. He says it's still hard to believe they're gone.
"I would have never dreamed that kids our age would be killed in a car crash, especially when other kids were on a bus next to it."
A memorial garden was finished over the summer at Lake Butler Middle School to remember those who died.
"It will be something that those who want to, it will be available to them as a remembrance and a reminder of what happened," said principal Mark Bracewell.
Roman says there are a lot of folks who don't want to talk about that day. It's still too hard, the wound's too fresh. "I feel extremely lucky. I really do."
Charges are pending against Alvin Wilkerson, the driver of the semi-truck. The Florida Highway Patrol has completed its investigation and turned it over to the State Attorney's Office in Gainesville.
First Coast News