Published: Monday, December 10, 2007
Tragedy at a Parade- 'It All Went in Slow Motion'By S.I. ROSENBAUM,
BARBARA BEHRENDT & WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE,
PLANT CITY | On Saturday, Tammy Bridges returned to the place where her young cousin fell.
The sidewalk was empty. Nothing marked the spot except a few candies still scattered on the ground and the flowers from strangers propped against a street pole.
In her mind, she kept seeing Jordan's little body lying broken and lifeless in the street. She couldn't shake the image.
"It all went in slow motion," she said.
Nine-year-old Jordan Hays was crushed and killed as he reached for candy on the Greater Heights Family Worship Center float during the Plant City Christmas parade Friday night.
Jordan, a float participant, had been handing out candy to the crowd.
Plant City police said Saturday they are investigating the incident, but expect no criminal charges to be filed.
"This was the worst outcome of a great event," said Plant City police Lt. Jerry Stwan.
Stwan said the boy was reaching for candy when his feet got caught in the float's wheels. The candy, police said, was on the top of a flatbed trailer, right in front of the wheels, which Stwan said may have contributed to the accident.
It was Jordan's first time in the parade.
The accident happened on Collins Street after the parade halted for a few minutes near the railroad tracks. Jordan's family said people surged forward, trying to grab candy. Jordan, his older brother, Joshua Miller, and Tammy Bridges, 33, were crowded up against the sides of the float.
Then the float started moving again. Jordan's ankle got tangled in the float's axle and wheels. He was pulled under, and the wheels rolled across him, from his legs to his chest.
A police officer and Bridges screamed at the driver, Jordan's cousin Ricky "Bubba" Tarlton. Tarlton, who could not be reached to comment, had hit the brakes.
People shouted at Tarlton to back up. He did, family said. A police officer said in a report he saw the truck back up and run over Jordan a second time, which the family disputes.
Jerry Bridges, 37, Jordan's cousin and Tammy's husband, jumped down from the passenger seat. He performed CPR as Johnny Knotts, who owns a nearby hardware store, held the boy's legs.
Knotts said he and Bridges repeatedly urged the unconscious boy to stay alive, telling him, "Come on, fella! Make it! Make it! We're with you! You're not by yourself!"
Bridges kept performing CPR until rescue workers pulled him away and took over. In the crowd around them, people formed prayer circles.
"I tried to save him," Jerry kept saying to Tammy. A resident of Lake Panasoffkee in Sumter County, just over the Citrus County line, Jordan was a third-grader at Inverness Primary School.
IPS principal Marlise Bushman plans to call the Citrus school district's crisis team into the school today for her staff and her students.