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87-year-old man arrested in connection with crash that killed 9-year-old girl

California Highway Patrol confirmed on Friday the arrest of an 87-year-old man in connection with an accident Thursday that left a 9-year-old student dead, and 3 others injured.

Officials also confirmed Friday that one of the students injured was a 5-year-old boy, who was hospitalized with major injuries. According to a family member, the boy is the younger brother of the girl who was killed.

CHP said the cause of this crash remains under investigation, but driving under the influence has been ruled-out as the cause.

The driver was arrested and booked into the John J. Benoit Detention Center in Indio. Authorities said the driver was traveling on Corkill Road, southbound, in a 1994 white Cadillac, approaching the rear of a school bus when he allowed the front of his vehicle to collide into the rear of the school bus.

The driver of the school bus and the two juvenile passengers were uninjured in the initial crash.

After this crash, the driver of the white Cadillac continued to travel on Corkill Road, southbound, and allowed his vehicle to travel onto the right dirt shoulder. The vehicle struck a speed limit sign and four juvenile pedestrians that were walking on the shoulder.

The crash caused fatal injuries to a 9-year-old girl, major injuries to a 5-year-old boy who is hospitalized, and minor injuries to an 11-year-old girl who is also hospitalized. A 12-year-old girl suffered minor injuries, but was treated at the scene.

Keith Meyers, who lives across the street from where the incident occurred, said he's been advocating for safety improvements to be made on the road where the accident took place.

He said he has "contacted the CHP and the sheriff’s department" and recently "wrote a letter to Supervisor Perez showing concerns that we have about the danger of this street."

Meyers explained "they redid this patch of road last year and they didn't seem to take into account the pedestrians need to have access as well and they are almost next to the cars where they are trying to pass."

News Channel 3 reached out to Riverside County officials to inquire about the lack of side walks where the children were struck by a vehicle, since the incident took place in an unincorporated area overseen by the county.

When asked why there are no sidewalks in the location of the crash, the county issued a statement to News Channel 3 that read in part, “The Transportation Department actively works to install sidewalks through various mean ... which are generally prioritized based on pedestrian volume.”

The county added, “The Transportation Department is not aware of any prior concerns raised by the public or school district officials regarding this location.”

Palm Springs Unified School District's Superintendent of Schools, Mike Swize, told News Channel 3 Friday that a team of district employees met to discuss a plan to offer support to students and staff at Julius Corsini Elementary School in Desert Hot Springs.

The response comes in the wake of Thursday's tragedy, which left students, their families, and others shaken. Swize said, "as a district we are here to support all of our families."

Swize added, "we have a team of district employees, including mental health workers, school psychologists, counselors" available to help students, their families, and staff through these tough times.

PSUSD sent out a communication to parents on Friday afternoon to keep them informed on the resources that are accessible.

Flags were flying at half staff on Friday at Julius Corsini Elementary School in Desert Hot Springs, where Monique Gonzalez Guzman attended before her death.

The girl's aunt started a fundraiser online to help her family with funeral expenses.

Stay with News Channel 3 for continuing developments on this story.

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Jennifer Franco

Jennifer Franco is the weekend anchor/weekday reporter for KESQ News Channel 3

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