6-year-old on bike struck, killed by semi


A makeshift memorial was established near the site where 6 year old bicyclist Jani'yah Irving died in a January 10 collision with a semi.

KAREN VOYLES / The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, January 13, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 12, 2009 at 8:56 p.m.

A 6-year-old girl riding a bicycle she received as a Christmas gift died Saturday after being struck by a tractor-trailer a half block from her home in a northwest Gainesville neighborhood.

Relatives said Metcalfe Elementary School kindergartner Jani'yah Irving was apparently making a U-turn on her purple and pink bike when the tragedy happened at NW 12th Terrace and NW 32nd Avenue at about 2:30 p.m.

Among the factors being reviewed by traffic homicide investigators for the Gainesville Police Department was why the semi was in the neighborhood, which has signs at several points identifying the east-west streets as being no-through routes for trucks. Gainesville Police Officer Summer Hallett said the accident remained under investigation Monday and that no charges had been filed.

A preliminary report by police said that Jani'yah was headed north on NW 12th Terrace. She failed to stop at a stop sign at the intersection with NW 32nd Avenue.

At the same time, a semitrailer being driven by Marcus Olden Jr., 59, of Jacksonville was westbound on NW 32nd Avenue. Olden was reportedly on his way to make a delivery to a store on NW 13th Street, a block to the west.

Police said it appeared Jani'yah rode her bike underneath the back end of the passing truck and was run over by the trailer's rear wheels. Olden reportedly told police that he heard something hit the back of his semitrailer and then heard screaming. Hallett said Olden stopped and - when he got out - saw the child on the road.

Jani'yah's older brother, 7-year-old Jamari, also saw the little girl beneath the truck and ran home to tell his mother, Ayana Archer, who had been barbecuing with members of her extended family in the front yard.

"My baby girl. My little princess is gone," Archer said Monday evening as she looked over the flowers and cards and candles left on the side of the intersection where the accident happened. "I miss her so much."

Archer said she and her daughter were about ready to begin selling Girl Scout cookies with Jani'yah's troop. Archer also recalled that her daughter loved to play with Bratz dolls or anything attached to the Walt Disney princesses. She loved to dance and role-play as a cheerleader.

"She always wanted to be the center of everything - the center of attention," Archer said.

Jani'yah's grandfather, Larry Archer, lived less than 10 minutes from the family and saw her almost daily. His advice to the family and to others who suffer tragic losses was: "Let things work out. It's never going to be understandable, but you just have to let it all work out in time."

Among those struggling significantly with the loss was Jamari, who first saw his sister beneath the truck.

"Jamari has just been having a terrible time over all of this," said Danielle Clemons, Archer's aunt, who lives next door. Jani'yah attended Metcalfe, along with Jamari and their younger brother, 4-year-old Javion, according to principal Felicia Moss. She and several Metcalfe teachers were at the family's home on Monday night to offer their condolences.

A crisis counseling team was dispatched to Meltcalfe on Monday morning to work with students, said school district spokeswoman Jackie Johnson.

Guidance counselor Anquinetta Calhoun said they spoke to the child's classmates, explaining she had been in an accident and, while doctors tried to save her, she wouldn't be back at school.

They also reassured students that her brother, a first-grader, would return to class. Calhoun said it will be difficult for some of the young children to understand what happened to Jani'yah.

"There will be at least one or more who will expect to see her tomorrow," she said.

Jani'yah had been at the school for three years, previously in the Headstart program. Like her other classmates, she would have been a student of the day and a teacher's helper at different times during the school year.

Students put together "memory pages" Monday, drawing happy memories they had of the girl and writing a note to her family, Calhoun said.

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