A driver was charged after his vehicle hit a teenager departing a school bus Wednesday afternoon in Hollister.

According to First Sgt. Christopher Knox with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol Public Information Office, the SHP responded at 3:42 p.m. to a personal injury collision on NC Highway 561 when 51-year-old Howard Gene Yee of Roanoke Rapids while driving a 2022 Tesla Model Y traveling west failed to stop for a stopped school bus. The vehicle collided with 17-year-old Tillman Mitchell of Hollister while he was crossing the roadway after exiting the school bus.

Tillman was flown to Wake Medical Center in Raleigh with critical injuries.

Knox said initial indications were that Yee was distracted and was the proximate cause of the collision.

Yee is charged with NC GS 20-217(G) passing stopped school bus striking a person, and NC GS 20-140 reckless driving. He was placed in the Halifax County Jail under a $25,000 secured bond.

Tillman is a student of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribal School.

Principal Melissa Richardson sent a school alert message to the public soon after the incident. Richardson’s message notified readers about the traffic accident.

“All other students and the driver were not injured,” she said in the message. “Local law enforcement is investigating the cause of the accident, and proper system protocol will be followed. Our transportation department has a very safe driving record, and this was an isolated incident. Regardless, we want you to be aware as we partner with you for the safety of our scholars.”

Richardson said the school will provide support for students through its student support staff and partnership with Halifax County Schools Hollister Elementary.

On Thursday, Tillman’s cousin, Ladonna Richardson, said he is in stable condition and underwent surgery for a broken leg, and had a neck fracture. Ladonna said he had a laceration on one of his kidneys that doctors said appeared to be healing. Family said later that day the ventilator was removed and he is on the road to recovery.

Ladonna said her stepdaughter was on the bus when the incident happened.

“She’s doing fine, and I think for all the kids, it’s just a shock,” Ladonna said. “They saw it happen. So I can’t imagine what that’s doing to them.”

When asked what her thoughts were as a parent regarding the situation and safety, Ladonna said she herself was almost in an accident with a bus several years ago while driving.

“The bus was coming towards me, and the children had started running out for the bus before it made a complete stop,” she said. “So the car in front of me slammed on brakes, and I swerved to miss the car. That could have turned out to be the same way. But when there’s a bus, you always just have to be so aware because you never know if the kid isn’t going to run out, or if the bus will stop, or if it’s gonna keep going. But I feel sorry for Dr. Yee, and I know he didn’t set out yesterday morning for something like that to happen.”

Ladonna said she does not know what kind of distractions there were for Yee, but emphasized the importance of paying attention when school buses are around.

“Just anytime you see a bus, there’s a possibility of children — that just makes you more vigilant in what you’re doing on the highway,” she said.

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