CALUMET TOWNSHIP — Charges are being pursued against a Merrillville man after a 6-year-old boy died Thursday morning in a crash involving a Honda Civic and a Gary Community School Corp. school bus, according to police.
Malachi Waiters, 6, of Calumet Township, died from blunt force trauma following the crash at West 41st Avenue and Calhoun Street, according to the Lake County coroner's office. He was a first grader at Ready Elementary School in Griffith Public Schools.
Malachi was a passenger in the Honda Civic being driven by 27-year-old Christopher Waiters, who was identified by police in a news release Thursday afternoon.
Dan Murchek, deputy police chief for the Lake County Sheriff's Department, said Waiters allegedly disregarded a stop sign at the intersection, striking the bus, according to police. Three students and two Gary school employees on the bus were not injured, school officials said.
Malachi was taken to Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus in Gary, where he was pronounced dead at 8:41 a.m., the coroner's office said.
George Jerome, the school's director of finance and its operations manager, said from his understanding the boy was being transported to school by his father.
A Lake County police officer while on patrol witnessed the crash, police said.
Early stages on the investigation show alcohol, speed and traffic offenses were contributing factors in the crash, Murchek said in the release.
Christopher Waiters was allegedly found to be driving on a suspended driver license and had an outstanding warrant for a prior driving while suspended offense.
Murchek said in the news release Christopher Waiters was transported by a Lake County officer to the Southlake Methodist emergency room for medical evaluation and then transported to the Lake County jail on probable cause of "causing death while operating (a) vehicle."
A second juvenile passenger in Christopher Waiters' Honda Civic was transported to Munster Community Hospital with injuries that were not life threatening, police said.
The Gary Community Community School Corp. bus driver, George Hood, was transported to Northlake Methodist in Gary for a medical evaluation.
Griffith Public Schools officials said grief counselors will be brought in to counsel students, teachers and school staff. School started Tuesday in Griffith.
"I am not sure if the kindergarten and first-grade students are as aware of what happened but our teachers need to be able to speak to someone and that process has started," Jerome said.
All three students on the bus were released to their parents, according to a statement from James Meza, Jr., chief operating officer of the state-appointed emergency management team for the district.
The two school district employees on the bus included Hood and an observer.
"We extend our deepest sympathies to the loved ones of this child and our hearts and minds are with all of those in our neighboring district and all those involved in the accident," Meza said.
Gary school leaders thanked law enforcement and medical professionals who responded and provided care. Gary school leaders said they would continue to work closely with law enforcement as they investigate the crash.
The Lake County Sheriff's Department Traffic Crash Reconstruction team is continuing its investigation and will be presenting this case to the Lake County Prosecutor's Office for charges.