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A year later, Newport school remembers third-grader struck and killed by trash truck

Brock McCann was about halfway home from Newport Heights Elementary School as he rode his bike along 15th Street in Newport Beach on May 25, 2016.

Suddenly he was struck by a trash truck turning out of a small cul-de-sac called Michael Place. The third-grader died at the scene.

The 8-year-old’s death spread sadness throughout the community.

A year later, community members gathered Thursday morning at Newport Heights Elementary to support the McCann family and honor Brock’s life with music and a tree-planting ceremony.

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Principal Somer Harding welcomed the crowd of students, parents and first-responders from the Newport Beach police and fire departments who gathered on the school blacktop.

“By having a memorial, we’re showing our children that there are healthy ways to show grief and sadness in a caring community,” Harding said. “Today marks the year anniversary, but while we don’t feel the shock and despair about that day, we do want to pay our respects and honor Brock.”

“We’re doing this for you, surrounded by all of us, because we love you,” Harding added, addressing Brock’s parents, Murphy and Bernadette McCann. “We want you to know this community reaches out to you. We’re here to give you strength, and we’ll be there for you again for any difficult days in the future.”

Brock was described as a loving and creative student with a passion for music and monsters, and the ceremony paid homage to his interests. Two of Brock’s former classmates shared memories of playing dodge ball with him and squirting one another with water guns.

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Fourth- and fifth-graders sang Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from “Toy Story,” and John Daffron, Brock’s former third-grade teacher, performed “Puff, the Magic Dragon” by folk group Peter, Paul and Mary.

Fences along the blacktop were adorned with colorful flags illustrating artwork from parents and students.

Harding addressed students with a message from the McCanns.

“They wanted me to let you know they read every card, every letter and every drawing and cherished reading about your memories with Brock,” she said.

The McCanns also urged them to “be careful when riding your bikes,” and most importantly, “love your family,” Harding said.

Guests headed toward the rear of the campus to help plant a cork oak tree chosen by Bernadette.

Flanked by family and friends, Brock’s parents watched as guests took turns shoveling dirt to cover the base of the tree. Harding said Bernadette, an avid gardener, envisioned the tree becoming a place where children could relax in the shade while enjoying a book.

The ceremony was a “healing experience,” Bernadette said.

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“We’re a blessed community in how much parents care about not only their children but each other’s children,” she said. “I don’t think I’d be getting out of bed if it wasn’t for this support we know and feel.”

Daffron’s musical choice — about a dragon and his playmate, a little boy who grows up and loses interest in him — not only commemorated Brock’s love of music and monsters but also illustrated “the significance of how temporary and fleeting childhood life can be,” Bernadette said.

Murphy said Hardin’s work while honoring Brock made it a learning experience for the schoolchildren.

A candlelight remembrance for Brock is scheduled for 6 p.m. June 1 at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, 600 St. Andrews Road, Newport Beach.

Safety concerns

After the tragedy a year ago, the Newport Beach City Council placed new focus on improving bicycle and pedestrian safety around Newport Heights Elementary, Ensign Intermediate and Newport Harbor High schools.

Councilman Brad Avery, whose district includes Newport Heights, said Thursday that it’s a “top priority” to work with residents to make it “as safe as possible for school kids to get to the three schools in the area.”

Avery said a traffic study is being done to decide where to place bike lanes and additional stop signs. A sidewalk will be installed on the south side of 15th Street later this year, he said.

Priscella.Vega@latimes.com

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Twitter: @vegapriscella


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