St. Petersburg Times
Special report
Video report
  • For their own good
    Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
  • More video reports
Multimedia report
Print Email this storyEmail story Comment Email editor
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Your name Your email
Friend's name Friend's email
Your message

Driver doesn't see boy, kills him

The toddler went to play with his older brother a few houses down. But as he crossed the street on the way home, he was too small to be seen.

Published December 30, 2006


WESLEY CHAPEL - Even as he was dying, he tried to do what his big brother told him.

"Alex, get up," Tyler Lopez said, shaking his 3-year-old brother's shoulders. Tyler's hands were slick with Alex's blood. "Come on. You're okay."

Tyler is 6. Near dinner time Thursday on Temple Stand Avenue, Tyler played with Star Wars figures on the lawn of a neighbor kid's house, just a half dozen homes down from his own. Alex Lopez, whose mom thought he was still in the back yard, toddled over to hang out with his brother.

When it was time for the neighbor kid to go inside, Tyler turned to go home. He crossed the street, and Alex followed. The man driving the big white van braked for Tyler to cross - but Alex was too little. The driver didn't see him, just felt the two thumps as he slowly drove over him.

"GET UP," Tyler told his brother.

And Alex tried - even after the adults rushed Tyler away and the neighborhood men held Alex down, telling him, "Buddy, you've got to stay still till the doctors get here" - he wailed and struggled to raise his head, which swelled, hair and skin peeled off the left side. Blood ran from his nose, pooled in the street. He fought to sit up until the paramedics strapped him to a stretcher. Then the little boy went silent.

Alex died en route to the hospital.

Tyler blamed himself, his shirt stained with blood. He stayed at a neighbor's house while his mother was driven to the hospital, to sit with her son's body and say goodbye.

"It's my fault," he kept saying that night. The adults told him, "No, it's not your fault. You're only 6 years old. It is NOT your fault."

The boys' mother, Jessica Lopez, was making dinner when a neighbor pounded on her door and told her that Alex had been hit. Jessica is 22, a stay-at-home mother. Her boyfriend, David Kielak, owns the home, which is in the Ashley Pines subdivision off State Road 54.

The neighborhood has an old-time feel; people know one another, their kids play together. They all knew Alex and said he was a sweet, mischievous boy who followed his brother everywhere.

There is an investigation into Alex's death. Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Larry Coggins would not say if any of Alex's relatives were negligent.

"We are trying to interview everyone to determine if he was by himself outside, or he slipped out of the house or the garage," Coggins said. "We have a lot of loose ends to wrap up on this."

Coggins said the driver, Andre Gobourne, was not at fault, because Alex ran in front of him. Gobourne is 26 years old and from Orlando. Neighbors said he was distraught. He told them he was checking out homes with the thought of moving there.

No one from the boys' family could be reached for comment Friday.

The day after it happened, neighbors sat with strained faces in the sun on a driveway, watching their children play in the yard. None had slept well. They kept rehashing the scene: hearing the thumps, the screams. Throwing down mail, newspapers, yard equipment, running. The ambulance got there in five minutes, but those minutes seemed an eternity to them, the ones holding Alex's broken body, saying the ABCs with him, telling him to stay with them, turning him on his side when he started gurgling, hearing his mother's wails as she circled her boy.

The neighbors told their children that's why you're not allowed to play in the street, because something like this could happen; you could die like Alex did. And then the kids asked what death means.

"It means he's not coming back," Gene Coward told his 5-year-old daughter, Logan. She thought for a moment, trying to get her head wrapped around the idea of death, of never, and then said:

"His mom is going to be really sad."

Times researchers Angie Holan and Cathy Wos and reporter Gina Pace contributed to this story.

Editor's note

This story is based on Florida Highway Patrol reports and interviews with the neighbor kid's mom, two other neighbors who rushed to Alex's aid and the babysitter who stayed with Tyler after the accident.

[Last modified December 30, 2006, 06:53:16]

Share your thoughts on this story

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Subscribe to the Times
Click here for daily delivery
of the St. Petersburg Times.

Email Newsletters