INDIANAPOLIS — For the first time, we're hearing from the school crossing guard who survived the September crash that killed a 7-year-old girl and seriously hurt her mom. Police said it was all caused by road rage between two drivers, who are now facing charges.
In the last two months, Mike Sykes has had a lot of doctors appointments and received a lot of well-wishes.
Still recovering from a broken shoulder and injured knee, medical bills are piling up and the school crossing guard can't work right now. But at home, he said he cherishes and gets comfort from the hand-drawn cards sent by students at George Julian School 57. In many of them, children say "thank you" and call Sykes their hero.
"I'm never getting rid of these, ever. They show me a lot of love," Sykes said.
Sykes, a father of eight, was working to keep kids safe the afternoon of Sept. 14. He was just a month into the job he'd quickly grown to love.
"You get to know the families. You draw close to them and they draw close to you," Sykes said. "Being a father, you just...you want to protect every kid you see. Even though you can't, you still want to."
At the corner of Washington and Ritter that afternoon, Sykes was talking with 7-year-old Hannah Crutchfield, her sister Charlotte, and their mother, Cassandra, while waiting to cross the busy intersection.
"We were having a conversation before we stepped off into the street. I guess they were going to some party or some function and Hannah was talking about what dress she was going to wear. When the light turned red, I put my stop sign up and I tell the family 'Come on,' and then I stepped off the curb," Sykes said, shaking and lowering his head.
Sykes said he heard a crash, pushed Charlotte out of the way then the next thing he knew, he was on the ground, in pain.
"People were telling me, 'Stay down. Don't get up, don't get up.' My brain wanted to get up, but my body wouldn't let me," Sykes said.
Nearby, where Sykes couldn't see, things were much worse. Cassandra and her first grader, Hannah, were critically hurt.
"Then I hear, 'The little girl, the little girl, the little girl.' I'm like, 'What is going on with the little girl?' Then they said she was unresponsive and the ambulance was coming," Sykes said.
Hannah later died at the hospital. It's a loss that's like a gut punch for the man who was trying to protect her.
The next day, Sykes took his own children, carrying balloons, teddy bears and flowers, to the school's memorial, to honor her.
"I just pray for their strength and healing," Sykes said. "My heart does go out to the family. It goes out to the community. This community is actually together. If something happens to one of them, it affects all of them. And that's what I love about that community, so my heart goes out to that whole community."
It wasn't until a few weeks ago that Sykes learned that prosecutors believe what happened in the intersection was not only preventable, but criminal. The crash was caused, they say, by road rage.
Torrell King, 21, and a 17-year-old girl without a license both face charges. Prosecutors say both had been driving recklessly and at the intersection, the teen ran a red light, causing a crash.
"What y'all were doing, y'all weren't even thinking of anyone else's life," Sykes said about the suspects. "Then you're doing it in a school zone. There's kids! I don't wish nothing bad on them, but I do hope they get whatever God got coming for them."
Sykes said he wants to connect with Cassandra Crutchfield - who he prays for daily. But he's not sure what to say to comfort her.
He just wishes he could have done more to keep everyone safe.
The 17-year-old is facing the following charges:
- One count of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, causing death — Level 4 felony
- One count of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, causing serious bodily injury — Level 5 felony
- One count of reckless homicide — Level 5 felony
- Five counts of criminal recklessness — Level 6 felony
- One count of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, causing endangerment — Class A misdemeanor
- One count of operating a vehicle having never received a license — Class C misdemeanor
King is facing the following charges:
- One count of reckless homicide — Level 5 felony
- One count of criminal Recklessness — Level 5 felony
- Two counts of criminal recklessness — Level 6 felonies
An initial hearing date for King was scheduled for Nov. 5 and his bond was set at $15,000.
Learn more about aggressive driving risks
Given all the risks that come with road rage, we wanted to find out how common it really is.
According to AAA's Foundation for Traffic Safety, almost 80% of drivers said they have experienced some level of road rage. About 78% admitted to engaging in aggressive behavior themselves.
The most common acts are honking, yelling or purposely tailgating another car out of annoyance or anger.
Aggressive driving is a factor in more than half of all deadly car crashes.
Click here for AAA's road rage stats, and tips on how you can avoid aggressive driving risks.