The Daily Californian Online

Kindergartner Killed in Tragic Accident

By Melani Sutedja and Zach A. Williams
Contributing Writers
Monday, March 2, 2009
Category: News > City > Crime

Community members place flowers at a memorial for Zachary Cruz, a 5-year-old boy who was killed in a traffic accident while walking to an after-school program.

A Berkeley kindergartner was struck and killed by a truck Friday afternoon as he was making his way to a UC Berkeley after-school program.

At about 1:45 p.m., the Berkeley Police Department received 911 calls reporting a vehicle collision involving a child, said Berkeley police Sgt. Mary Kusmiss.

From various witnesses accounts, police gathered that a 2.5 ton Ford truck was traveling southbound on Warring Street when it made an eastbound turn on Derby Street and struck Zachary Cruz, 5, Kusmiss said.

The LeConte Elementary School student was hit en route to the after-school program at the Clark Kerr Campus, according to Berkeley Unified School District Spokesperson Mark Coplan.

"It was a tragedy for all of us," he said.

Coplan said Zachary Cruz and some classmates travelled after school by bus from LeConte Elementary to Emerson Elementary School, and from there would walk to the program.

The students left Emerson Elementary under the supervision of a licensed teacher at the program, according to UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof.

A Berkeley resident administered CPR to Zachary Cruz shortly after the accident, but Berkeley Fire Department paramedics pronounced him dead upon arriving at the scene, Kusmiss said.

The driver was cooperative with police after the accident, Coplan said.

Alcohol and drugs were not involved in the incident, according to Kusmiss.

The department's Fatal Accident Investigation Team is currently analyzing the incident, she said.

Kusmiss said fatal collisions between vehicles and pedestrians are not typical although the intersection is

located at a popular commuting route.

"This is extremely unusual," she said. "There were no fatal collisions last year."

But the accident marks the second vehicle-pedestrian collision involving a Berkeley elementary school student within 30 days.

On Jan. 30, a 6-year-old Malcolm X Elementary School student was struck in a crosswalk at the intersection of Ashby Avenue and Ellis Street. The student underwent surgery and survived.

Community members set up a memorial of flowers at the intersection where the accident occurred.

Frank Cruz, Zachary's father and UC Berkeley graduate student, said the help civilians gave at the scene embodied a generosity he saw in his son.

"The students who tried to help ... were perfect examples of that spirit," he said.

Frank Cruz said he hopes his son-who aspired to be a scientist, astronaut and doctor-will be remembered as an invaluable member of the campus community.

"I'd like the community to know that my son was around," he said. "He really enjoyed our university and I think he felt like this was his university and his town too."

A Web site,, has also been created in Zachary Cruz's memory. Donations made on the site will contribute to funeral costs.

Frank Cruz said a campus memorial service will be held to celebrate Zachary Cruz, who would have turned six on March 12.

He said the moments he had with his son, who was just learning to read, will be cherished.

"He read a little book to me," Frank Cruz said. "I can't see him graduate from Cal, but I can hear him reading a book. That gives me comfort."

Article Link: