A 16-year-old Wolfson High School student died after being struck by a car driven by another student early Tuesday morning on Toledo Road, then struck by a second vehicle, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
Malk Sunwabeh was taken to UF Health Jacksonville with life-threatening injuries and underwent surgery immediately following the crash, but later died.
“My brother, he was a pretty good kid. He had a dream to grow up and be a soccer player,” said Malk’s brother, Abraham Sunwabeh.
"We are just all disappointed to be in crying with tears because of our loss," said Neinpolor Mellen, Sunwabeh's aunt. "Malk has been just a little perfect boy. You do not have children perfect these days, but he was one of those. He was just a very good boy."
Police said Sunwabeh was crossing the road with another person at an unmarked intersection near Wolfpack Way about 6:35 a.m. The first pedestrian made it across, but Sunwabeh was hit by the car, then a Sawyer Gas work truck ran over both his legs, police said.
Traffic homicide Sgt. Donald Washington said the first driver -- a 17-year-old girl -- panicked and drove home, but was brought back to the scene by her father. Police said the teen didn't see Sunwabeh crossing.
"When I saw him, he wasn't moving, rescue was putting a brace around his neck and on his back, and that's mostly all I saw," a witness named George said of Sunwabeh. "I went back in the house."
Toledo Road was closed in both directions until about 10:30 a.m. as the accident was investigated. Police said it was not yet determined if the first driver would face charges.
Ashay Macklin said she knows the 17-year-old driver, who is also a Wolfson student.
"She's very sweet, it's nothing like her," Macklin said. "So I understand how she feels about panicking and stuff like that. She's young she didn't know what to do."
Macklin said the crash has been very upsetting for students.
"Very sad. It was a negative vibe, a very negative vibe, a real negative vibe," she said.
Later in the day, a police officer was helping Wolfson students cross the popular side street to get home.
"I've lived here for a couple years and just I've seen a lot of people try to cross the road and speeders coming down, and you just figure it's going to happen eventually," James Hershberger said.
"I just couldn't imagine this 17-year-old girl hitting this boy by accident. I figure her life is over, this boy's life is over, and the man who ran over the kid afterwards, I mean his life is over. They're always going to be thinking of this, and it's a shame that it had to come to this all because there's no crosswalk, no crossing guards. These older kids have to fend for themselves now, you know."
Students are also crossing the street in the morning when it's still dark out, making it difficult for drivers to see them.
“He mowed the grass in my yard all the time,” said Mellen. “Help anybody, and he had high potential. He come and say, ‘I go to school and earn highest education because I need to help my mom.'"
Sunwabeh and his family emigrated to Jacksonville from Liberia in West Africa a few years ago. Family members told Channel 4 that Malk had dreams of being a soccer player when he got older. His death is impacting a lot of people in their neighborhood.
“We from Africa, we have this saying that one child is everybody's child. He called us mom, even though this is his mom, we're all his mom. That's how we raise a child. We all live together as one family. So sad it happened,” said family friend, Berince Chea.
“My message to drivers in this country is we need to be more careful, then maybe Malk would still be alive today,” said Mellen.