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Roadside memorial grows as friends honor Olympic teen who died trying to catch the bus

A roadside memorial was set up for 15-year-old Zoe Alana Deen. The Olympic High student was killed March 27 when she was struck by a car while trying to catch her school bus.
A roadside memorial was set up for 15-year-old Zoe Alana Deen. The Olympic High student was killed March 27 when she was struck by a car while trying to catch her school bus. lvsmith@charlotteobserver.com

The 15-year-old Olympic High School student killed Tuesday while trying to catch her school bus has been identified as Zoe Alana Deen, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police announced Wednesday.

Zoe was a member of JROTC. Some Junior ROTC members wore ribbons in her honor on Wednesday, according to multiple posts on social media.

An Olympic student council group created a poster with photos of Zoe and condolence messages for her family, and classmates mourned her on Instagram.

"Thank you for always standing up for me & being there for me when I needed it the most," one friend wrote.

Zoe was crossing Youngblood Road in southwest Charlotte around 6 a.m. Tuesday when she was hit by a Nissan Murano, police said. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

A roadside memorial for Zoe — including balloons, stuffed animals, flowers and her favorite snacks — was at the scene of her death Wednesday.

Classmates and friends visited the memorial in the afternoon, placing various items in front of a white cross that read "blessed" as they paid their respects to Zoe.

"She was very enthusiastic. Very kind and sweet," said Chad Ceniza, an Olympic freshman and fellow JROTC member. "She always gave everyone support."

Still dressed in his JROTC uniform, Chad stopped by the road to get a view of the memorial. He said the group is planning a way to honor Zoe.

Madilyn Edwards, a sophomore at the school, came to the memorial site with her father, Eli. She had been in JROTC and other classes with Zoe, and remembered her as an "amazing" individual.

"I loved her. Everybody loved her," she said. "You could never really have a bad conversation with her. She was that kind of person."

While there, friends and community members expressed concerns about the road's safety. The location where Zoe was killed had no overhead lights, crosswalk or pedestrian signal, police said. The speed limit on Youngblood Road is 45 mph in the area.

Chad, who lives nearby, said he'd like to see a streetlight placed on the road.

Cars traveling down Youngblood often drive too fast, Eli Edwards said, but pedestrians have to be vigilant as well.

"In this area, this road is just a cut-through to get from the backside of the Palisades out to Tryon," he said. "And the sad thing is, everyone’s always in such a hurry, they don't slow down to see what's around them."

Jane Wester: 704-358-5128, @janewester
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