Vigil held for victim in Dayton SUV-bike crash

Family of 7-year-old asks drivers to be more cautious this summer.

UPDATE @ 7:11 p.m.: The family of 7-year-old Kaleb Mondale Cook, who was killed by an SUV while riding his bike Monday, is asking motorists to be more cautious when driving this summer.

Kaleb, a second-grader at the World of Wonder Pre-K-8 School in Dayton, was gifted a new bike Monday for doing well at school. His stepfather, Nathan Messenger, said the child begged to ride it and was less than a block from home when he was struck and killed by a red SUV headed west on West Fifth Street.

Cook was riding his bike with his older brother, and his parents could see the accident from their front porch. The boy was outside for about five minutes prior to the accident, and was not wearing a helmet, Messenger said.

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Family and friends gathered Tuesday evening for a vigil at the accident scene. Flowers and balloons were tied to a nearby pole. Grandmother Jennifer Coleman asked drivers to “take heed” from this tragedy.

“Please, it’s summertime out there. Please, slow down and watch out for these babies that are riding these bikes. Please don’t talk on those cell phones or text,” Coleman said.

The Dayton Police Department’s traffic services unit is investigating the crash. Officers said the driver of the SUV was being cooperative and so far no charges have been filed. Lt. Mark Ponichtera called the incident a “tragedy,” and said it could be several weeks before investigators determine what factors, including speed, may have contributed to the crash.

This year, four children have been brought to Dayton Children’s Hospital after colliding with cars. In most cases, inattention to traffic by the children is a major factor in the crash, said Dr. Thomas Krzmarzick, medical director of the emergency department.

Last year, 420 children went to the Dayton Children’s ER for injuries related to a bicycle accident, he said. While the hospital did not have any statistics related to fatalities from those accidents, nationally 135 kids died from bike-related injuries in 2014, the doctor said.

Krzmarzick said many of these accidents are preventable by making kids wear helmets and teaching them about bike and traffic safety.

“If you wear a bicycle helmet, we think that about a third of the deaths can be prevented, and about 80 percent of the injuries can be prevented,” Kzmarzick said.

The Montgomery County Coroner’s Office completed an autopsy on Tuesday, but results are pending.

UPDATE @ 6:45 p.m.: Dozens of adults and children joined family members of 7-year-old Kaleb Mondale Cook at a vigil to remember the boy killed when an SUV hit him.

The gathering, at the site of the accident in the 1300 block of West Fifth Street, began at 6 p.m. Balloons of various colors danced in the wind as people hugged and wept for Kaleb.

EARLIER REPORT (May 12)

A 7-year-old boy riding a bicycle Monday evening was killed when an SUV hit him in the 1300 block of West Fifth Street.

  • Victim is Kaleb Mondale Cook
  • He received bicycle day he died for doing well in school
  • The driver of the SUV has not been cited or charged

Cook’s stepfather and mother were sitting on the front porch of their home less than a block away from where he was struck and killed by an SUV just before 5 p.m.

Nathan Messenger, Cook’s stepfather, said Cook was given the bike Monday as a gift for doing well in school. He asked if he could ride around the neighborhood for just five minutes. When Messenger and Cook’s mother saw he had been struck by a car, they rushed over to him and thought he had a pulse. But when medics arrived, they were told he was dead.

Cook was a second grader at World of Wonder Pre-K-8 School in Dayton.

Monday evening, the Dayton police Traffic Services Unit, which has taken over the investigation, was trying to determine whether the boy was wearing a helmet, whether anyone was with him at the time of the accident or whether speed played a role in the accident.

Messenger said Tuesday that Cook was not wearing a helmet.

There was intermittent rain in the area, so investigators will also have to determine if the weather played a role in the accident, said Dayton police Lt. Mark Ponichtera. Alcohol is not believed to have been a factor, he said.

The driver of the red SUV was cooperative with police.

A vigil for Cook is planned for tonight at 6 at the intersection of West Fifth and Conover streets. The family is asking attendees to bring candles, teddy bears and anything else a child would like. Batman, Spiderman and SpongeBob were some of his favorite characters.