EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 7, 2013

Derry teen struck Friday returns to school

By Alex Lippa
alippa@eagletribune.com

---- — DERRY — Lauren Gendreau, 13, is recovering physically from injuries sustained when she was struck crossing Manchester Road Friday night.

She even returned to classes at Gilbert H. Hood Middle School yesterday.

The girl she was with, 15-year-old Sophia Christen of Manchester, died as a result of her injuries.

Psychological recovery will take longer, according to Lauren’s mother, Lynn Gendreau.

“She’s still traumatized from the whole thing,” Gendreau said yesterday.

Lauren, an eighth-grader, was with a group of friends from Gilbert H. Hood Middle School at a carnival set up in the parking lot of Ocean State Job Lot.

There, Lauren and her friends met Sophia and her friends, and the girls explored the carnival together.

“They were just having cotton candy and enjoying themselves,” Lynn Gendreau said. “They had literally just met for the first time that night.”

Gendreau said five of the girls decided to cross Manchester Road to Burger King to use the bathroom.

That’s when tragedy struck.

“They were all just inches away from each other,” Gendreau said.

The girls were walking east across four-lane Manchester Road near the intersection with Ashleigh Drive, close to the Burger King entrance.

There’s a four-way traffic light, a pedestrian crossing signal and a crosswalk.

“I don’t think in any way that it wasn’t a safe avenue to cross,” Lauren’s mother said. “But I do believe there wasn’t enough police supervision, knowing people could be crossing the street either coming or going to carnival.”

Chris Cross works at Dino’s Roast Beef and Pizza across the street from Burger King.

“I remember being afraid that someone was going to get hit,” Cross said. “A few kids at a time would keep running across the street.”

Cross said the intersection doesn’t have many pedestrians, but on Friday night, things were different.

The five-day carnival attracted crowds of people, many teenagers, who crossed the road for food or facilities.

Sophia was in front of Lauren when the group headed across the road.

Sophia was hit first, suffering serious head trauma, according to Gendreau. Lauren was then hit twice by a car, her mother said, but did not suffer serious injuries.

“She had her foot run over and her elbow was scathed,” Gendreau said. “Her foot is swollen and there are cuts on her elbows. She never landed on her head, which was a godsend.”

Lauren was taken to Parkland Medical Center and released later that night, her mother said.

Police said there were two vehicles involved, a 2011 Toyota RAV 4 driven by George Draper, 63, of Bow and a 2013 Acura RDX driven by Anne Bartlett, 58, of Manchester. Police have not released which car hit Lauren, but said Sophia was hit by both cars.

Police Capt. Vern Thomas said yesterday police are still investigating the crash. He said he couldn’t say if charges would be filed. He also couldn’t say when the investigation would be completed.

If it were up to Gendreau, she doesn’t think the drivers should be charged.

“I think it was just an accident,” she said. “I think the drivers were distracted by the bright lights of the carnival. They were probably looking up instead of looking down.”

Flowers, teddy bears, balloons and candles have been placed in a makeshift memorial near Burger King.

After the crash, Gendreau said, she reached out to Sophia’s father to offer her condolences.

“It’s ironic because my husband and his brother know each other from going to (Calvary Bible Church in Derry) together,” she said. “But the girls were virtual strangers.”

At Hood Middle School, teachers and administrators were prepared to help anyone struggling to handle the accident.

Superintendent Laura Nelson said counseling was made available yesterday for any student who needed it. It will be available for the first few days of this week.

“We know a number of our students were at the carnival that night,” Nelson said. “When an incident like this occurs, counseling is always something we try to make available.”

On Saturday, the final day of the carnival, police had put up an electronic billboard, warning motorists of pedestrians in the area.