District Proposes Safety Improvements in Wake of Student's Death

By Submitted Report | Posted in: News

Local, school and state officials will make several changes to the intersection of O'Neil Boulevard and Eden Park Boulevard after a student died there last week while trying to cross the street.

The changes will include posting crossing guards, putting railings along the sidewalks to discourage students from jaywalking, staggering school bus departures to improve visibility, and additional safety education for students, said Kristen Davis, spokeswoman for McKeesport Area School District.

Deonte Cobbs, 15, was struck by a school bus on the afternoon of Sept. 3 as he crossed Eden Park Boulevard near the high school and middle school campus. He died at UPMC McKeesport hospital of his injuries.

District resident Kelly Sickels has created an online fundraiser to collect money to defray the cost of a funeral. The GoFundMe page had collected almost $2,000 as of Wednesday night.

Cobbs was hit not far from where one of his classmates, 14-year-old Alyson Higdon, was struck and killed in March 2014 when she stepped into the path of a truck.

The two deaths in less than two years spurred parents to stage a vigil and a protest. Over the past few school days, parents and grandparents have volunteered to help students cross the street safely.

The accident happened in full view of dozens of students. In a prepared statement, Davis called Cobbs' death an "unspeakable" tragedy that will "stay with us forever," and said the district continues to provide support for his family.

She said the district is working with city officials, the state Department of Transportation, Allegheny County public works and other agencies to add new crosswalk signs, resurface the crosswalks, and change the timing of traffic lights to give students additional time to cross the interesection.

School employees are also helping monitor the intersection for safety, Davis said.

Many students told newspaper and television reporters that they don't use the crosswalks when leaving school at the end of the day. Allegheny County police homicide detectives investigated the accident and said Cobbs was not in a crosswalk when he was struck.

Originally published September 09, 2015.

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