12-year-old Darien student struck by distracted driver

DARIEN -- Just two days after completing a month, in which they made 138 distracted driving arrests, Darien police nearly had to deal with a distracted driving tragedy Tuesday.

Just after 4 p.m., a school bus was stopped on the Post Road eastbound near Outlook Drive. However, a distracted driver didn't notice.

"A 12-year-old Darien female student had exited the school bus and she was looking to cross the Post Road in a northerly direction," explained Darien Police Captain Don Anderson.

But, a Chevy pickup, driven by Gary Hartog, 35, of Rowayton, passed the stopped school bus and "struck the pedestrian with the passenger side mirror knocking her to the ground," Anderson added.

Fortunately, the seventh grade student suffered only minor injuries.

"As is often the case, a student's first thought is 'what did I do wrong?' And, the truth is, she did nothing wrong," said Darien's Superintendent of Schools Dr. Dan Brenner.

Police said the driver of the pickup truck immediately was pulled over and was cooperative.

"Mr. Hartog stated that his phone, which had been on the seat, was ringing," said Anderson. "He looked down momentarily, to look at the phone, and did not notice the stopped school bus" or the student crossing, who stopped when her bus driver laid on the horn when he realized the pickup wasn't stopping.

"Here's a case where a split-second or one step further and the consequences could have been catastrophic," said Anderson.

"It's a real message to everyone that we need to stay off our phones," said Brenner.

Hartog was issued two infractions that totaled to $615.

In an email to the parents of students who attend Middlesex Middle School, the principal noted that the injured student smiled at the hospital when she told her that she was being excused from homework for the night.