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Driver of truck that struck, killed 2 children charged

By Steve Lyttle and Cleve R. Wootson
slyttle@charlotteobserver.com; cwootson@charlotteobserver.com

Every morning, Kadrien Pendergrass and his brother, Jeremy Brewton, made the quarter-mile walk with their father from their west Charlotte home to their day care center.

But on Wednesday, the walk ended tragically when Jeremy, 1, and Kadrien, 5, were struck and killed by a Sears delivery truck on a stretch of West Tyvola Road that neighbors say sorely needs a sidewalk or speed bumps to slow cars.

"The kids were great, happy kids," said Roslyn Dixon, owner of Dixon Academy, where they were enrolled. "Our teachers' hearts are heavy. It was very painful."

The boys' father and an infant sibling in a stroller were not injured.

Dirk Jerome Brown, 32, was arrested and charged with two counts of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle. No one answered the phone at a number listed for him.

A Sears spokeswoman didn't immediately return a call late Wednesday. A criminal records check revealed no history of major traffic citations against Brown.

The victims' father told police he was walking along the edge of the roadway with his children when they were struck at West Tyvola and Shady Lane. He was pushing a stroller while his 5-year-old son pushed another stroller. Brown was trying to turn right on West Tyvola when he struck two of the children and their father.

Dorothy Jones, who lives at the intersection, said she heard a man screaming and rushed out of her house in her nightgown.

"I was just laying there and I heard, 'He hit my kids! My kids! My kids!' "

When she looked out the door, both children were lying on the ground, not moving. Jones said she rushed to the children, but couldn't find a pulse.

The man asked Jones to use her cellphone to call his wife. They couldn't reach the boys' mother, so Jones sent a text message.

A few minutes later, the mother called back.

"I told her there's been an accident. Just get to CMC (Carolinas Medical Center) emergency room."

Neighbors described the section of road the family walked on as treacherous - particularly West Tyvola, a busy cut-through between West Boulevard and Tyvola Road where residents said cars and trucks often speed.

The speed limit in the area is 35 mph.

There are no sidewalks for about a tenth of a mile, even though residents say two school bus stops are nearby and pedestrians regularly use the road to get to a nearby Family Dollar store or the West Boulevard branch of the public library.

Speaking to reporters hours after the collision, Jones said she had called the 311 city-county services line and complained about the intersection. Operators referred her to the transportation department, she said.

It wasn't immediately clear if city officials responded to her complaints.

The city said the stretch of West Tyvola from Old Steele Creek Road to West Boulevard does need a sidewalk, according to city transportation department spokeswoman Linda Durrett.

Before Wednesday, there had been two pedestrian crashes along that stretch since records started being kept in 1997, and though transit officials saw a need for the sidewalks, they didn't have money in their budget for them. There have been no other requests for other safety measures.

Sheena Vaughan, who lives next door to the family involved in the wreck, said she plans to petition City Council members and the mayor to get sidewalks. She frequently walks her dog along the stretch of the road where the children were killed. Neighbors used to cut through the yard of a church to avoid a section of the road, she said, but the church recently erected a fence.

Another neighbor, James Bouler, took his daughter and his white pit bull for a walk near the site of the crash.

Pointing to the lack of sidewalks and small shoulder, Bouler said, "Normally, they have to walk in the road."

Staff researcher Maria David contributed.

Editor's note: Condolences can be posted in the guest books linked above. If you have information relevant to this story, please contact the reporters.
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