Friend of 6-year-old killed by school bus in Festus working to improve bus safety


JEFFERSON COUNTY, Mo. (KMOV.com) — It’s been a week since 6-year-old Damon Rice was hit and killed by a school bus near Festus in Jefferson County.

On December 21, Damon was getting off the school bus. He crossed the street in front of the bus, and was then hit by the bus. State troopers are still investigating the incident while family, friends and an entire community are in mourning.  For the first time since the accident, we’re hearing from Damon’s father and 7-year-old best friend, Levi Johnson. 

The Festus community came together Wednesday night to remember a young boy killed in a tragic school bus accident.

“I don’t know another little boy that was loved by so many, and it didn’t take 10 minutes and you just fell in love with him,” Joseph Rice said. 

Rice, Damon’s father, said that’s how everyone described his son. Rice said he lit up every room he walked into and made friends with anyone. 

“I got to put him on a school bus every morning, every morning. It was the same routine. We’d sit in the car and talk, have a conversation about what he’s gonna do for the day, tell him I love him, he’d tell me he loves me, and he’d go and get on the school bus,” Rice explained. 

The morning of December 21 was the last time Rice shared that special memory with his son. It’s those moments that are now lost for the Rice family and one of Damon’s closest friends. 

“Whenever we moved in on that road, he was just right across the sidewalk,” Levi Johnson said. 

Johnson met Damon Rice when they were just 2-years-old. They were neighbors and inseparable ever since. 

“We played stuff like tag and hide and seek. We mostly played hide and seek ’cause he definitely loved that,” Johnson said. 

Johnson said this week has been a nightmare for him. However, the 7-year-old is turning grief into something far bigger than anyone could imagine. Johnson wants to create better laws when it comes to school bus safety. 

“That was the most amazing day of my life, other than my children being born, was that boy coming out and saying, ‘Hey look, I think there needs to be a law’,” Rice said. 

Johnson said he wants a law to be passed that requires school buses to have cameras on the front and the back. Right now in Missouri, that’s not required. 

“Whenever that stop sign goes out there will be a screen, and then you can see the front and back of the bus,” Johnson explained. 

Four days ago, Johnson and his mother created a Change.org petition for this new law. It already has thousands of signatures. Johnson said he’s doing this so it doesn’t happen to any other kid.

“I just really want them to know how great of a person he was,” Johnson said. 

While Johnson and the Rice family fight to protect kids in the future, they’re also keeping Damon’s memory alive. 

“It’s the worst thing in the world that for my son to make such an impact, he had to move on. Cause he would’ve made the same impact without that,” Rice said. 

To sign Johnson’s petition, click here. To help out the Rice family during this time, click here

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