The Green Oaks Academy second-grader, identified as Sioreli Torres Zamora, was walking to the school, which is on the Cesar Chavez campus, with her mother and two siblings when she was struck by a car in the crosswalk at Bay Road and Gloria Way, Officer Veronica Barries said.
The driver was longtime Costano Elementary School teacher and East Palo Alto resident Alisha Whiteparker, 49, Barries said.
Whiteparker struck the girl at 8:06 a.m. while driving southbound on Bay Road, Barries said. Sioreli had been about 5 or 6 feet into the crosswalk, according to residents living nearby. Barries said she suffered major injuries and died shortly thereafter at the scene.
Residents wept as the coroner and police investigated the scene. Family members tried to comfort Sioreli's mother.
Outside the police-tape barrier nearby, Whiteparker also wept, comforted by residents who said she had grown up in the neighborhood.
"She's a good woman," Maggie McDuffy said, adding that she heard and saw the accident just as she opened the door to her home, which is several feet from the crosswalk. Larry Arnold, who lives with McDuffy, said he came running outside.
"I heard the impact, and I saw a shoe in the street. I didn't want to see any more. It was sickening," he said.
Barries said the accident did not appear to be criminal, and Whiteparker was sent home after questioning.
The T-shaped intersection includes a stop sign on Gloria but none on Bay. There is no crossing guard assigned to the intersection, according to a spokesman for the Ravenswood City School District.
Some residents were furious, citing ongoing traffic issues on the busy arterial street. They said stop signs should be added, given that the intersection is a few blocks from the elementary school and families and mothers with small children frequently use it.
"This should be 15 mph. The kids, when they are this little can run out ahead of their parents. They don't know any better. All day long there are crazy drivers that don't care," McDuffy said.
Germaine Demecio Garner, who was biking when he heard the accident, defended Whiteparker.
"It wasn't her fault. Kids just bust out of nowhere. She's been here all her life. She was raised on this street. She's a respectful teacher. She's been at the school for years," he said.
The little girl's death was Garner's second tragedy of the day, he said.
At about 5:30 a.m., his friend Danny Lee Dixon, 50, was killed in a head-on collision just two blocks away by a driver who was fleeing police. San Mateo County coroner's officials identified Dixon as an East Palo Alto resident.
"I've lost a lot of people," but the death of the girl was too much, Garner said, his hands shaking.
Police were investigating a call in the 400 block of Runnymede Street when the early morning motorcycle fatality occurred.
A resident saw a suspicious person in their yard, and officers spotted a gray Land Rover driving with its lights off. The driver sped away as police pursued and drove eastbound about three blocks down University Avenue — the wrong way into the westbound lane, police said.
The Land Rover struck the motorcycle head-on, killing Dixon near the intersection of Bay Road. Police took the driver, East Palo Alto resident Eric Banford, 46, into custody. The East Palo Alto Police Department is conducting an administrative investigation on the officers involved in the pursuit, which is standard procedure in such incidents, Barries said.
Residents wondered if the road blocks police erected following the motorcycle accident created a chaotic situation that led to the second accident.
Police had cordoned off part of Bay in both directions north and south of University by at least half a block, and vehicles were making U-turns on Bay when they encountered the police tape, residents said.
"To me, it had a lot to do with the first accident. They should've sent a crossing guard," Lucy Vasquez said. "They know there's a school right there. The police department should've been more involved — that's what hurts me. There were cars backing up, and kids are trying to cross."
But Barries said she had heard that some drivers were making U-turns, but other residents with whom she spoke at the scene said the traffic flow was not different from other days.
"By the driver's own admission, she didn't know the road was blocked off and was just doing her routine pattern of going to the school," Barries said.
Alcohol and speeding were not factors in Whiteparker's accident, she said. Whiteparker was possibly distracted, but that is still under investigation, she said.
Vasquez said Sioreli's death will have a direct impact on Vasquez's family.
"I have a daughter just like her. My daughter goes to the same school," she said, as tears streamed down her cheeks. "I didn't tell my daughter that her little friend got killed. It's going to be very hard."