MERCER, Pa. – In the quintessential small town of Mercer, Pennsylvania, nearly everyone looks forward to the annual school homecoming parade. This year, the tradition took a tragic twist when two students fell from separate parade float trailers and were run over around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Police said fifth grader Nicholas King, 10, remained hospitalized in stable condition at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. The other boy, age 10, was treated for minor leg injuries and released, according to police.
King’s sister, Zaleigh King, said she was riding on an aluminum trailer with him and their father, who coaches junior high football for the Mercer Area School District, along with the team. She said King was sitting on the edge of the trailer when he fell into the roadway.
“We were hitting bumps. I thought it was just pot holes, and then my dad said, ‘Oh my God, is that my son?’” Zaleigh King said. “I was shaken up. I was terrified.”
Witnesses told police Nicholas King’s pant leg became caught in a tire, pulling him into the road where the trailer ran over him. He was air lifted to a Pittsburgh hospital, conscious but with skull fractures, according to his sister.
“It was really scary,” Zaleigh King said. “I couldn't get it out of my head. It was really a bad sight.”
Police said while they were investigating that incident, the other 10-year-old was injured when he jumped from a moving trailer in the Mercer high school parking lot in an attempt to go after a Gatorade bottle that had fallen off. According to police, he slipped on wet pavement and the trailer ran over him.
The Mercer Area School District had extra counselors at the elementary school both attend.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the students and the community as a whole,” Assistant Superintendent Ronald Rowe said.
The community is banding together to support the King family, with gas cards for travel to the hospital and plans for a community potluck dinner and even stickers on football helmets.
“It means a lot that they’re all so supportive and helping out,” Zaleigh said.
King’s parents remained at his hospital bedside, where he managed to write them and his doctors a note telling them “I love you.”
“I’m hoping he recovers soon,” Zaleigh said.
Some in Mercer called for changes to the parade. Rowe would not comment on any possible changes to procedures. He said the parade was sponsored by the athletic boosters.