Damon Rice, a 6-year-old elementary school student, was struck and killed by a school bus early last week, shaking the community of Festus, near Jefferson County, Mo.
Getting off the bus like it was any other Tuesday ride home from school on Dec. 21, Damon Rice crossed the street in front of the bus when the driver accidentally accelerated and hit the young boy. State troopers are investigating the incident as family and friends mourn the loss of the 6-year-old, but his best friend Levi Johnson, 7, is already making it his mission to improve bus safety following Damon’s death.
Starting a Change.org petition with the help of his mom, Levi Johnson explained that a new law involving front and back cameras should be enforced on Missouri school buses so that the horrific accident can never happen again. After just five days of going live, the petition has since garnered over 5,376 signatures and counting.
“Whenever that stop sign goes out there will be a screen, and then you can see the front and back of the bus,” Johnson told local KMOV 4 News.
Helping Damon’s memory live on, Levi Johnson said that he started the petition to help improve bus safety for children his age, but also that he “just really want[ed] them to know how great of a person he was.”
“I miss him and I want to honor his memory by making a change,” Levi Johnson wrote in the Change.org petition. “I would like for it to become the law that all school districts have cameras installed on the front and the back of every school bus and when the bus door opens the cameras come on and the bus driver can see if a kid drops something and is picking it up so that another tragic accident like this doesn’t happen.”
“We met when we were babies and I will never have another friend like him again,” he continued. “He was taken too soon and I think that this will make it so that nobody else has to go through what everyone who loves Damon is going through this Christmas. I hope that others see this as something as important as I do and I hope a lot of people will want to sign this petition.”
The two were inseparable ever since they met when they were just 2 years old, with their parents affirming that they were best friends and close neighbors. The 7-year-old recalled how he and Damon Rice would play tag and hide-and-seek, which he said were his favorite games.
Damon’s father, Joseph Rice, told KMOV 4 News that the day Levi wrote up his petition to improve bus safety was “the most amazing day of my life, other than my children being born.”
He said that it touched him deeply to see “that boy coming out and saying, ‘Hey look, I think there needs to be a law’,” adding that, “I don’t know another little boy [like Damon] that was loved by so many, and it didn’t take 10 minutes and you just fell in love with him.”
“It’s the worst thing in the world that for my son to make such an impact, he had to move on, Damon Rice’s father said, “’cause he would’ve made the same impact without that.”
No charges have been made against the bus driver, according to Fox News, though the driver is cooperating with local investigators.
Missouri Governor Mike Parson, who would oversee signing Damon’s Law into effect in the state, has yet to respond to the potential school bus improvement plan. The Change.org petition lists that getting over 7,500 signatures would increase the chances that it reaches the Governor’s attention as a call to action from the Missouri community.