Student still fighting for life after being hit by car

Deputies step up traffic presence near high school; parents want school zone

ORANGE PARK, Fla. - An Orange Park High School Student is still fighting for her life after being hit by a car while leaving school.

Heather Barnes, 14, was crossing Kingsley Avenue on Thursday afternoon when a car hit her. She was not in the crosswalk.

Since then the community is stepping up to make sure accidents like this don't happen again. There were more deputies outside the school Tuesday not only to remind the students to stay in the crosswalk, but also to remind drivers to watch for students.

Jessica Cannon, Barnes' best friend who was with her when she got hit, put up purple ribbons for her, purple representing her favorite color. She hopes others seeing them will make everyone be more careful.

"That's my best friend. No one understands to see your best friend on the road get hit by a car," Cannon said.

Cannon said that's why she, her mom and friends are put up the ribbons along Kingsley Avenue on Tuesday.

She and Barnes were crossing the busy street after school let out.

"Me and her were like in the middle concrete, and the two stopping lanes were stopped, and all I heard was a 'rrrrrr,' and I like looked and I was this close to getting hit," Cannon said. "And I was like, 'Heather,' and by the time I said Heather, I just heard a bang."

That bang was a car hitting Heather so hard she had to be flown to Shands Jacksonville Medical Center.

Jessica admits she and her friend were jaywalking, something she says students at Orange Park High do all the time.

"Some people don't like the crosswalk guy, some people just don't want to wait because he's so slow or they just find it faster just to run," Cannon said.

That's why in the days since the accident, Clay County deputies have stepped up patrols. They're hoping flashing lights and officers will push students to use the crosswalk and encourage drivers on the busy street to slow down.

"It's the only way to do that because there are no flashing lights on this particular road at the school at this time," said Lt. Ricky Wright, of the Clay County Sheriff's Office.

There are no flashing lights there because it's not a school zone. The Clay County School Board has requested one but was turned down by the Florida Department of Transportation.

FDOT officials said they will look at it again since Barnes' accident, but they said there are several reasons why they made that decision.

"We're dealing with high school students who are more mature than elementary school children, so that's one point," FDOT spokesman Michael Goldman said. "And again, you do have traffic slowing devices already in that area."

But for Cannon's mother, that isn't enough.

"This is not over. We still want to fight to have a school zone to let people know that these kids are not going to be slowing down any time soon. They're going to cross the street," said Michelle Cannon.

Students at Orange Park High have started a petition to make the stretch of road a school zone. The FDOT says it will take input from the community and the Clay County Sheriff's Office before making a final decision.

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