A volunteer crossing guard for a California middle school has been killed—a split-second after he managed to push a group of kids out of the path of an oncoming SUV, according to local reports.
Ashley Dias, 45, worked for a biotechnology firm but gave back to the community where he grew up by volunteering at Stanley Middle School in Lafayette, the same Bay Area school he had once attended, his family said.
He was filling in for another crossing guard on Wednesday when things took a sudden turn for the tragic, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
As the driver of an SUV barreled toward the crossing, a parent saw Dias “rush to a group of students who were barely able to get out of the way and saw him push the student towards the sidewalk and just out of reach from the car,” Ashley’s mother, Gloria Dias, told the Chronicle.
“I met one of the fathers in the hospital. And he said, ‘Your son saved my daughter’s life.’ He said she stopped but he walked in front to stop the car and the car just knocked him over and dragged him underneath,” she said.
“He is a hero and put his life on the line to save a student. He should definitely be remembered,” she recalled the parent saying in a message.
Other witnesses backed up that version of events.
“He was getting pulled out by the paramedics and he was getting CPR,” a sixth-grader identified as Stella Champion told ABC7 News. “I think there was a kid injured, but the crossing guard saved the kid.”
The driver, described by ABC 7 as the grandmother of a student, has been interviewed by police and is said to be cooperating with the investigation. Police have not yet identified the driver or provided any specifics on what led to the accident.
But what they have revealed about the aftermath paints a horrifying picture, with first responders desperately trying to save Dias’ life as children looked on.
“One person was reported to be trapped under a vehicle. Lafayette police officers, who were assisted by citizens, were able to pull an unresponsive person out from under the vehicle. Officers administered CPR until relieved by fire department personnel. He was later transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced deceased,” the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
A child also suffered minor injuries and was “taken to a hospital as a precaution,” police said.
While police have not yet named Dias as the victim, his family has come forward to identify him to local media.
“He was doing his job as a crossing guard. He has done this many times,” his father, Fabio Dias, told the Chronicle, noting that Ashley had even been wearing a bright orange vest to make himself impossible to miss by drivers.
“And in spite of that, the car comes and hits him and kills him. And I lost my son,” he was quoted saying.
“It is unbelievable, just this morning we spoke to him, in the afternoon we spoke to him before he went at 2 o’clock for the crossing,” his father said.
While the circumstances of the fatal crash remain unclear, the driver’s family has expressed their own horror at the tragic turn of events, according to ABC7 News.
The son of the driver was quoted telling the news outlet that the family is “so incredibly sorry and devastated by this unthinkably horrible accident.”