SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - This Thursday, the community will gather at Brentwood Elementary School in Sarasota to remember a third grader who died after being hit by a truck while biking to school.
A vigil will be held for 9-year-old Roman Miller on Thursday, May 23 from 6-7pm in the courtyard of the school located at 2500 Vinson Avenue in Sarasota. The school says the event is only open to the school community and surrounding neighborhood.
The district is also accepting donations on behalf of the Miller family. A collection will be held Thursday evening for those who wish to contribute. One hundred percent of the donations will be given to the family. Friends and family have also started a Meal Train program. If interested in participating, you can find more information here.
Finally, there is a memorial near the accident site where Roman Miller was struck on Webber Street at Nodosa Drive. Both the district and police are warning anyone who is contributing to be extremely careful crossing the street. Drivers should also use caution in the area.
The third grader was struck Monday, May 20 around 7:30 a.m. on Webber Street and Nodosa Drive by a pickup truck that was being driven by 25-year-old Charity Lamb of Sarasota, who was attempting to turn left onto Webber.
Troopers say Miller and his sister were biking west on Webber, beginning to cross Nodosa. Miller, who was wearing a helmet, was dragged around 15 feet when he was struck by the truck as Lamb attempted to turn onto Webber after first stopping at the stop sign on Nodosa.
“Everything about it is tragic,” said Kylie Field. Her little sister is a kindergartner at Brentwood Elementary.
“My mom actually called me crying because they came up on the intersection and saw a bunch of lights and there was blood on the ground," Field explained. "There was a backpack laying in the road and my sister was like what happened? Who’s backpack is that?”
Lamb remained on scene and is said to be cooperating with investigators. She told police she saw Roman Miller’s sister and waved her by at the stop sign, but she did not see the 9-year-old boy.
“It’s unbelievable and it’s so frustrating and it just seems that this had to have been so preventable because it’s not a new problem, it’s not a problem that people are unaware of,” said Field.
Miller’s mother and the school’s principal both went to the scene before he was taken to Doctors Hospital, where he later passed away. The school, which is less than a half mile from where the student was struck, had trauma counselors available for affected students and staff who will remain at the school through the end of the week.
She’s one of several frustrated neighbors and says her family has contacted police eight to 10 times in the last two years to tell them this stretch of road is dangerous, but nothing has been done.
“It’s definitely a tragic day for us here in Sarasota County Schools,” said Tracey Beeker, Communications Director of the School District.
The district broke the news to students about Miller’s passing after lunch. They notified parents in the morning, giving them an option to come to campus to tell their children themselves.
Staff said many of the students are devastated. The young 9-year-old made a huge impact on classmates.
“I think it’s really important for parents to acknowledge the fact that something scary did actually take place," said Beeker. "But to be there to talk [their students] through it, to hear what they’re thinking and what’s going through their mind, how they’re processing the news.”
Friends and family of the boy brought flowers and balloons for a memorial near the crash site. The Miller family released a statement, which says:
We are heartbroken over the tragic loss of our son, Roman Miller. He was a kind, loving, polite, energetic, generous and caring little boy who loved his family, friends and animals very much.
We would like to thank everyone at Brentwood Elementary and the community for their outpouring of support. We also want to acknowledge the first responders, firefighters, paramedics, doctors and nurses who treated our son with respect and care.
We are holding a vigil this Thursday, May 23 at 6 p.m. at Brentwood Elementary. Roman loved going to school and we are grateful to hold a service for his school and community. Attendees are encouraged to wear green as we say a few words and honor our son.
For those who contributed to the memorial along Webber, thank you. We ask that you use caution when visiting the site - we are concerned for your safety and ask that you not stand in the middle of Webber Street. Also, for those who have contributed to the GoFundMe and Meal Train accounts, thank you. Friends are hosting a fundraiser at Big Top Brewery on June 2 for anyone wanting to attend. Brentwood Elementary is also accepting donations at the school. We feel so blessed for everyone’s generosity and support.
Official services for Roman have not been finalized. We thank you for your continued good wishes and prayers and appreciate your respect for our privacy during this difficult time.
The crash remains under investigation at this time and Florida Highway Patrol is asking anyone with information to come forward. At this time, no charges have been placed against Lamb. Troopers say when their investigation is complete, it’s likely Lamb will face charges, but none that would rise to the level of jail time.
Trooper Ken Watson said, “Even though it’s the last week of school, a lot of these children are walking and biking to school. We want to make sure that... everyone is doing their best to look at all directions before pulling out. We all have a habit of looking to the left because that’s where oncoming traffic would be, you have to remember to take that look to the right and make sure there are no pedestrians or cyclists within the roadway.”
Tuesday, following the crash, Sarasota County Commissioner Christian Ziegler proposed that staff work together to find ways to make it safer for students who walk or ride bikes to school, such as by expanding school zones or providing more crossing guards. The County Commission then voted unanimously to look further into the matter.