SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – The parents of a Sarasota boy who died tragically on his way to school are speaking out.
Back in May, 9-year-old Roman Miller was hit and killed while riding his bicycle to Brentwood Elementary School.
Now that classes are about to resume, the boy’s parents are fighting for changes.
Virtually any parent would rave about their 9-year-old child. But Roman Miller’s parents say their little boy was different. He had a big laugh, big dreams and a big heart of gold.
“He was special,” said mother Ashley Miller.
“He knew every kid in the neighborhood and made a special trip to come by and say hi even though they were not his age group or anything like that,” said father Thadius Miller.
On May 20, Roman was excited for his last week of third grade.
“One day he’s happy, playful and looking forward to going to school to read his books and watch a movie and then it’s just over,” said Thadius.
His dad Thadius was in California for work, while his mom Ashley was at home. Ashley is a nurse and normally would be working, but on that day she happened to be at home, preparing for a doctor’s appointment.
“Roman’s like- can you take us to school mom? And I was like, Roman, you guys just ride your bikes, it’ll be fine,” recalled Ashley.
Minutes later, Roman and his older sister biked along Webber Street when troopers say 25-year-old Charity Lamb slammed into the boy and dragged him for 15 feet. Ashley learned from a frantic phone call made by Roman’s sister.
“She’s crying. She’s hysterical. She’s like, ‘Mommy, Roman got hit by a car!’ I’m like, ‘Oh my God, is he breathing? Is he ok? Is he talking to you?’ And she’s like, ‘I don’t know! I don’t know!’” Ashley recalled.
Ashley rushed over and saw Roman lying in the street.
“The EMS is all around him and it looked like they were talking to him so I didn’t go over to him because it looked like he was ok I didn’t know the extent of it,” she recalled. “They pick him up, they took him to the ambulance, they said ‘Bayflight is on standby’ and all that, so they took him to the ambulance….The ambulance wasn’t moving and I was like ‘Why is it not moving? and so I look in the front part of the ambulance and I see that they’re doing compressions on him so I know he didn’t have a pulse.”
One hour later, Roman was pronounced dead at the hospital.
“I was in disbelief, I kept screaming saying ‘I don’t know what to do, this isn’t happening! This is not real!’” said Ashley.
She had to break the news to her husband over the phone.
“Sitting in that airport and sitting on that plane for 9 hours trying to get home to comfort my wife and children was just, I can’t imagine anything ever possibly being harder,” said Thadius.
Roman’s sister struggled to comprehend.
“She’s like, ‘No mommy! He can’t be dead! Tell them to make him alive!” said Ashley.
Months later, the family is struggling to cope.
“It’s been a struggle. It’s changed our life completely, it’s hard to get through a day without feeling like you’re gonna break down,” said Thadius. “There’s no goodbyes. There’s no preparation for something like this.”
“Unbelievable, it’s like a freaking nightmare. I just want to wake up and it not be real, and we kind of relive that every day because every night you go to sleep and most of the time you dream about Roman and you wake up and realize, hey, he’s not here,” said Ashley.
Now the family is fighting for changes. They’ve partnered with attorneys Marc Matthews and Karly Christine to pursue legal action. Along with suing the driver, they plan to sue the county and the school district for failing to maintain safe crosswalks.
Under Florida law, students have to walk or find other means of transportation if they live within two miles of a school.
“They require our children to travel within two miles, they need to be safe in that two miles,” said Thadius.
Many of the crosswalks near Brentwood Elementary are faded or poorly maintained.
“They’re faded. It’s not obvious to drivers that you’re approaching a crosswalk, it’s not obvious to drivers that you’re going to be entering a crosswalk, the county needs to do more, our local leaders need to do more,” said attorney Marc Matthews.
“There needs to be crosswalks that are painted. Preferably green, or a brighter color than white, white fades way too quickly,” said attorney Karly Christine.
The attorneys point out that years ago Webber used to be a dead-end street. However, over the past few decades, there has been an explosion in growth in the area. They point out there haven’t been many upgrades to the crosswalks.
Now Webber Street has become a very busy thoroughfare that cuts directly through a residential community.
“Instead of just pumping more people into these neighborhoods without any concern for the community, the safety of the kids, let’s make those developers foot the bill for improving the infrastructure, improving the sidewalks, improving the crosswalks,” said Matthews.
The Millers hope their efforts will save lives. They have a message for parents.
“Try not to get hung up on day to day life so much and just enjoy the time. There’s a lot of time I missed and I wish I had it back,” said Thadius.
The driver, Charity Lamb, was issued a citation for failing to yield the right of way. Officials say the case remains under investigation.
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