Two Cleveland High School students were critically injured in an auto-pedestrian accident around 6:20 p.m. on Monday on SH 321 in front of the high school. The two male students – a ninth-grader and a tenth-grader – were returning to the high school parking lot after having walked over to a restaurant in the shopping center across from the high school when they were struck by an eastbound commercial pickup truck.
“The students were crossing the street at the designated crosswalk. We were told this pickup truck came down the street and ran right into them,” said Cleveland ISD Superintendent Stephen McCanless. “We had a game going on at the high school tonight and we believe they might have stayed after school for the game and had gone to get something to eat when this happened.”
The two students are not related, according to McCanless. They were airlifted to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston.
Food containers from the restaurant where the young men had picked up food were among the items left lying in the street, along with one student’s backpack, athletic shoes and side mirrors from the truck.
The driver of the pickup truck, whose name has not been released at this time, was taken from the scene in handcuffs. According to Cleveland Police Chief Darrel Broussard, “The driver was given several impairment tests at the scene and there will be further investigation into his capabilities to operate a vehicle.”
When asked if the driver was intoxicated, Broussard declined to say. He added that Cleveland Police Department is working to secure a search warrant to get a blood draw from the driver. The blood draw will be used to determine if the driver was impaired or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Liberty County District Attorney Jennifer Bergman came to the scene to assist in the investigation should charges be filed against the driver.
Broussard underlined the need for a flyover crosswalk at the high school, or the possibility of adding more lighting or a flashing light to alert drivers.
“There are mobility studies that have been done of this area. We have quarterly and monthly meetings about the traffic near the school where there is typically a lot of pedestrian traffic. We have discussed the possibility of a flyover crosswalk. TxDOT has talked about it, too, but the funding for it hasn’t happened yet,” Broussard said. “Something definitely needs to be done in this area to protect the safety of our students. We have had a few near misses but this one is pretty horrific.”
Crisis counselors will be standby tomorrow at Cleveland High School for students and staff of Cleveland ISD.
“We always have counselors available to call in for a crisis situation. We have informed the community what has happened and will be monitoring the situation throughout the night to see how our students are faring,” McCanless said.
Cleveland ISD Police Department, Cleveland Fire Department, Pct. 6 Constable’s Office, Smith Towing and J & J Wrecker Service assisted at the scene.