NEOSHO, MO — A beloved Missouri kindergarten teacher directing pick-up lane traffic as small children got into their parents’ cars was killed this week when she was struck and dragged as far as 25 yards by an out-of-control SUV. The 88-year-old driver told police he somehow got his foot caught between the accelerator and brake, causing the vehicle to lurch forward.
With Angel Hayes, 48, trapped beneath it, the SUV traveled into a parking lot at Benton Elementary School in Neosho Wednesday and finally stopped when it hit another car, police said. Hayes was pronounced dead at the scene.
The driver of the SUV, Erwin Parker, had just picked up his 12-year-old granddaughter, who was in the vehicle at the time of the accident, police said. Neither was injured.
The tragedy hit the 4,750-student district hard, Superintendent Jim Cummins said at a news conference Thursday. Hayes was loved not only by students and their families, but by colleagues who looked to her as a mentor who could help them become better teachers, he said. Classes were canceled through the end of the week and counselors were made available to students and staff, the Springfield News-Leader reported.
“Yesterday was one of those days that administrators pray they will never have to face,” Cummins said at the news conference. “Teachers not only teach together. They attend church together, spend time with each others’ families.”
Hayes, who had taught in the Neosho district for 19 years and in the profession for 25, found her passion in the classroom. Kind and patient, she had a “natural talent for teaching” and a “huge heart for kids,” Cummins said.
“She guided them to become their best self, academically, socially and emotionally,” he said. “Angel was always searching for new and best practices. She never stopped learning.”
Jody Martin, the former principal of Benton and current principal at Field Early Childhood Center, where Hayes taught, said she was “more than passionate.”
“She would fight tooth and nail when she thought something was right for her kids,” Martin said.
Neosho police Chief David Kennedy said at the news conference that investigators plan to retrieve data from Parker’s vehicle. It’s unclear if charges will be filed.
Lead photo via Shutterstock / media_digital