BYRON -- A tight-knit middle school community in far East Contra Costa County was shaken to its core Monday morning after a seventh-grader riding his bike to school along a rural highway was struck and killed by a parent who had just dropped off her children.
Teary-eyed and visibly shaken students and faculty at Excelsior Middle School walked the open hallways Monday, almost in a daze. Many students and staff sought district-offered counseling to cope with the death of Burgess Hu just 10 minutes before school started.
A steady stream of concerned parents simply took their distraught children home early.
Hu, 12, of Discovery Bay, was hit by a black GMC Yukon turning right onto Byron Highway from the school driveway, California Highway Patrol Officer John Fransen said.
The driver heard what she called a thud, immediately stopped, got out and saw that she had run over and pinned the boy, Fransen said.
"She could not have been going any more than 10 (mph)," Fransen said. "She's devastated. The parents of the 12-year-old boy are obviously devastated. It's just a tragic event that is going to devastate the little rural community here in a very hard way."
Principal Kelly Basmagian addressed students early Monday about what had happened, and the campus was in shock, Byron Union School District Superintendent Debbie Burnette said.
Counselors will also be on the campus Tuesday, she said.
Burgess was a bright child who enjoyed helping others, according to parents, Boy Scout leaders and neighbors.
"He was really just a good kid, very smart and respectful," neighbor Jeremy Slack said. "Hard to believe we just saw him last night."
Slack said Burgess was friends with his son and involved himself in a variety of activities, such as Boy Scouts, volunteering and theater.
"We have lost a brother in Scouting, an energetic young man who enjoyed camping, fishing and the outdoors," said Kenn Knittel of Boy Scout Troop 514.
"His enthusiasm will be missed dearly. Our hearts go out to the Hus and the other families coping with this tragic accident."
Burgess earned merit badges for canoeing, climbing, fish and wildlife, and Indian lore. He completed 27 nights of camping and 43 hours of service to the community.
Burgess' parents were at the scene shortly after the collision.
At the family's Discovery Bay home Monday, Burgess' father declined to be interviewed, saying in a solemn voice: "I'm sorry. I just can't talk about it."
Burgess was the family's only child, neighbors said.
The family was in the process of selling their home and planned to move away in a week, Slack said.
Excelsior parent Chris Klemchuk said his daughter was in the same grade as Burgess. "It's just horrible. Horrific," he said. "It' probably the most horrible thing to happen here in a long time."
Burgess was recognized by many as the boy who rode his bike to school -- one of few to do so along the busy stretch of road.
He was riding south in the right shoulder -- against the flow of traffic -- along the fog line of the northbound lane, according to Fransen. The rural road has a hard shoulder but no designated bike lane.
It appears the boy had started to enter into the driveway of the school, Fransen said, when he rode toward the passenger side of the woman's SUV as she was turning right out of the driveway.
"We're assuming the driver was looking over to the left to clear traffic, and maybe that's why she didn't see the child," Fransen said. "She's saying she never saw the bicyclist -- she just felt like she hit something and was dragging something."
Burgess was wearing a bicycle helmet with a Contra Costa Sheriff's Office badge sticker, Fransen said.
Traffic safety at Excelsior, given its location off Byron Highway, has long been a district concern. Two years ago, the district moved the school's entrance from the highway to Byer Road.
District officials wouldn't comment Monday on whether the accident might spur additional safety precautions for the campus, saying they were focused on the grieving process.
Even before Monday's tragedy, the CHP's Contra Costa office had been planning a traffic safety fair, from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Brentwood Senior Center, 193 Griffith Lane. Officers plan to educate kids about keeping safe while bicycling and walking, among other measures specific to child safety.
Staff writers Natalie Neysa Alund and Eve Mitchell contributed to this story. Follow Rick Hurd at Twitter.com/3rdERH. Follow Paul Burgarino at Twitter.com/PaulBurgarino. Follow Erin Ivie at Twiter.com/@Erin_Ivie.