PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, Md. - Prince George’s County Police are providing new details on what led up to the crash that killed two children who were walking to school Monday morning.
Officials released the identities of the two young children who were hit and killed as 10-year-old Shalom Mbah and 5-year-old Sky Sosa.
Shalom’s mother spoke with FOX 5, expressing her heartbreak and devastation. A close family friend also told FOX 5 that the fifth grader was a twin who loved music and singing. His family had moved to the area from Cameroon about five months ago.
"If there’s something to want to tell the media, is to let them put this family into prayer. Put us into prayer so that we may be able to go through his process," family friend Gilbert Ndi said. "[It’s] so confusing. It’s something that we have not come across before. So, even the Cameroonian society looks at this so strange — that a car is hitting a child, five months in the United States. It’s so strange for them."
Police also shared new details on how this horrific scene unfolded.
They say the driver involved made a left-hand from Taylor onto Riverdale Road at around 8 a.m. Monday, actually striking three people in the crosswalk: a father of one of the two children and then, of course, the two kids.
READ MORE: Students killed in Riverdale Elementary School accident identified as Shalom Mbah, Sky Sosa
Investigators will determine if the driver should be charged but officials say that could take some time. Chief Malik Aziz said during a press conference Tuesday that investigators are unsure if the driver made a complete stop or a rolling stop at the intersection.
Community members have also been expressing frustration, saying there hasn’t been a crossing guard in the mornings at the intersection involved. FOX 5 asked the police chief about it at a news conference Tuesday morning.
Aziz confirmed that those folks were right: there was no crossing guard there at that time. This is a school that tweeted on "National Walk to School Day" on Oct. 4 that Riverdale Elementary is 100% walkers.
#NationalWalktoSchoolDay Today was National Walk Bike and roll to school day. Our students were excited to our staff out in the community greeting them. Riverdale Elementary is 100% walkers. @pgcps pic.twitter.com/MUxSA9qnPn
— Riverdale Elementary RES (@PGCPS_RES) October 5, 2023
But the chief also said there's a chance that had a crossing guard been in the area, they could have become a victim too.
"In all likelihood, adults, school crossing guard or not, would have most likely, and in high probability, have been struck too," the chief said.
"A driver of a van appeared to make a left-hand turn and whether they completely stopped or continued to roll, struck three people and killed two children. In this particular case, the school crossing guard, it wouldn't appear that that would have made a great difference into the facts that are surrounding — the facts as we know them now," Aziz continued.
In the same breath, the chief also said they’ve had a hard time hiring crossing guards. The department confirmed today that PGPD currently has 63 working crossing guards, 83 vacancies and 22 interviews set up for next month.
READ MORE: 2 children struck, killed by vehicle near Riverdale Elementary School in Prince George's Co.
FOX 5 was told that the long-time crossing guard here retired over the summer.
"That is one of the locations that we have been seeking to fill and have a proper replacement for the person who retired after many years of service, making sure our children could cross the street in a safe manner," Aziz said.
We asked police if there is any kind of plan to cover this intersection with an officer until they find someone new but have not received an answer yet. But in the wake of this tragedy, the police chief is making a plea for people to apply if they care about the community and can do this work.
The school system is making counselors available virtually over the Thanksgiving break. They’ll also have counselors in person when the children return on Monday.
"Our hearts ache as we extend our most deepest condolences for this most tragic accident that claimed the lives of two of our beloved Riverdale Elementary School students. The entire school community, the school system, is grieving and our thoughts are with the families affected by this unimaginable loss during the pre-Thanksgiving break," Prince George's County Public Schools superintendent Millard House II said.
As for the grieving families, they are asking for privacy — and prayers — to help them get through this.
"It's very, very traumatic. There are a lot of things you cannot understand because you are not of the balance to say anything. But it’s a child. So humble. Very receptive. Very respectful. Talked [nice/less], very hardworking and prayerful. So this happening to us, like I said, is a very heartbreaking situation," Ndi said.
FOX 5 will be sure to share verified fundraising information shared with us on how the community can help both families.