GONZALES — Whitney Paul said Wednesday her 7-year-old niece, Shawn’Kell “Lucy” Patterson, was a fun, smart girl who loved to dress up, braid her hair and play with her cousins and siblings.
“We’re doing better than we were yesterday,” Paul said of grieving relatives and friends of the George Washington Carver Primary School second-grader killed when hit by a train Tuesday evening.
A 14-year-old sister was baby-sitting Lucy and two other siblings while their mother was at work, Gonzales police Detective Sgt. Steve Nethken said. The incident happened just before 6:10 p.m., Nethken said.
Just before she died, Lucy was on her way home from Carver Park, had crossed Tobey Street and needed to get across the double tracks of the Kansas City Southern rail line to get to her residence on Cedar Avenue.
Cedar Avenue runs parallel to the east side of the Kansas City Southern tracks. The city park is on the west side.
The tracks are separated from the family’s backyard by a wide ditch that can be traversed by means of a makeshift footbridge.
It’s a well-worn path, Nethken said, familiar to many children and adults who use it daily to get to and from Carver Park
He said Lucy, who lived at 1615 N. Cedar Ave., had a habit of racing ahead to cross the tracks, but she reportedly froze in front of the train after the conductor blew the horn.
Paul said she believes Lucy’s shoe may have gotten caught as the child was crossing the tracks, but Nethken said while it may have happened that way, police haven’t been able to find any such evidence.
Accident investigators may never know exactly what happened, Nethken said.
“The investigation is ongoing, but we have no plans to file any criminal charges at this time,” he said.
Paul said that however it happened, “it was an accident. There’s no point in bringing more grief to this family by blaming. It’s nobody’s fault. What we’re going through is hard enough. God wanted her home. We don’t want nobody blaming anybody.”
Johnnie Balfantz, spokesman for the Ascension Parish public school system, said that extra counselors were on duty at Carver Primary on Wednesday to help students cope with the death of their classmate.
Carver Primary has children attending prekindergarten to fifth-grade classes.
Paul said family members were in the process of making plans for Lucy’s funeral, but final arrangements remained pending Wednesday. Nethken said an account had been set up at Capital One in Lucy’s name to help the family with funeral and medical expenses.