RUMFORD — Under a gray sky and cold mist, people added tokens and flowers to a makeshift memorial for Jayce Holt. One woman brought a framed photo of the 6-year-old boy and his mother. A rock secured a piece of notebook paper with a child’s uncertain handwriting: “I miss you.”

Jayce died Wednesday afternoon after the bicycle he was riding collided with a school bus near his home in this western Maine town of 5,700 people. The first-grader was interacting with a child on the bus while bicycling when the accident occurred, police said.

A day later, his relatives, neighbors and classmates grieved and gathered near the spot where he had died.

“He was a beautiful soul,” said Bernadette Quarantiello, a neighbor and family friend.

Jayce, who attended Rumford Elementary School, was riding his bicycle on the sidewalk northbound on the west side of Waldo Street as the bus approached, Rumford police said Thursday. While interacting with a student on the bus, he left the sidewalk and entered the crosswalk, crossing Essex Avenue northbound.

Jayce did not recognize that the bus turned left into his path from Waldo Street onto Essex Avenue until it was too late, police said.


Lena Evans puts an arm around 15-year-old Deamon Murphy at a makeshift memorial near where 6-year-old Jayce Holt was killed in a collision with a school bus in Rumford. Murphy described Holt as his cousin. Press Herald photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

Jayce did not have time to stop his bicycle, and he and the bike fell, went under the school bus and were struck by the left rear dual tires, police said. He was not wearing a helmet, Rumford Police Chief Stacy Carter said. The crash was first reported by Rumford Police Cpl. Lawrence Winsom, who happened to be driving directly in front of the bus and witnessed the crash in his rear-view mirror, police said.

A photo showing Jayce Holt and his mother is placed at a memorial near where the boy was killed Wednesday in an accident with a school bus while he was riding his bike. Press Herald photo by Shawn Ouellette

Police said the driver of the bus, Stephen Arsenault, 51, of Dixfield, has cooperated with investigators and there is no indication that Arsenault was at fault in the crash. Investigators with the Rumford police are being assisted by Maine State Police, who are reconstructing the crash and inspecting the bus for any mechanical defects.

“Short of getting (new) information from the Maine State Police, there’s no indication of any fault by the driver,” Carter said in an interview Thursday.

Speed is not considered a factor, as the bus was traveling slowly as it made the left-hand turn, Carter said. Arsenault was not aware that one of the students on the bus was interacting with Jayce, Carter said.

In line with standard practice in all fatal motor vehicle crashes, police drew Arsenault’s blood and will test for the presence of alcohol, drugs or other intoxicants, Carter said.

Four students were on the bus. Neither Arsenault nor the students was injured, police said.


The child’s mother was on the scene immediately, as the boy’s family lives close to the crash scene, Carter said. Friends and community members created a makeshift memorial of stuffed animals, toys, candles and handwritten notes near the scene of the accident.

Arsenault, who declined to speak with the Press Herald, has a clean driving history for at least the last 10 years, according to records maintained by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

The driving records indicate he obtained his passenger bus permit and school bus permit in 2013, and has no accidents, speeding tickets or other infractions recorded since at least 2009. He also has no criminal record in Maine, according to the State Bureau of Identification.

The intersection where the accident occurred is about two blocks from Rumford Elementary School, where Jayce was enrolled as a first-grader, according to the Western Foothills School District.

“Our entire RSU 10 community is grieving this loss,” the district said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family. As with any accident of this kind, there is an ongoing, thorough investigation. We are fully cooperating in this process. This tragedy is far-reaching throughout our communities.”

Kailib Murphy 12, of Rumford, lights a candle at the makeshift memorial to 6-year-old Jayce Holt in Rumford. Murphy said he was Holt’s cousin. Press Herald photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

Rumford Elementary Principal Jill Bartash posted a statement on the school’s Facebook page saying classes would be held Thursday but that the Family Fun Night had been postponed. Counselors were available at the school to support students and staff, she said.


“We know that the days ahead will be difficult for our entire community,” Bartash said. “Know that all staff will work to support kiddos in the days ahead.”

People who live in the neighborhood described it as a friendly place, where everyone feels like family and looks after each other. The ones who knew Jayce said he was an energetic 6-year-old who loved his sister, Nerf guns and his bike.

Quarantiello, 36, said Jayce, his mother and his sister were on their way to her house for dinner when the accident happened. The family of three recently settled into a nearby apartment, she said, and Jayce was eager to help on moving day by washing the floors of the new place.

As neighbors talked and hugged, a steady stream of traffic passed through the nearby intersection. Only cars on Essex Street have a stop sign.

Brenda Neider watched her granddaughter climb into a tree next to the memorial. She pointed out parking lots where children play ball – especially the younger ones, who might not be allowed to wander to the playing fields on their own. Nearby, a blue-and-white bike rested on the corner.

“They need more signage,” Neider said, gesturing to the street. “This is where the kids play.”


Kristin Schrepper, an elementary school teacher at the Penacook Learning Center, stood by the memorial with her dog. She said the small district is devastated by the accident, and other communities need to be aware that a similar tragedy could happen there, too.

“There’s streets just like this in Lewiston,” Schrepper said. “There’s streets just like this in Portland. It’s something to think about in all these heavily populated areas.”

Other neighbors suggested that more after-school programs might help keep kids away from the streets.

“It shouldn’t take the death of a little boy, an innocent boy who had his life to live, for people to wake up,” said Lena Evans, 31.

Meghan Beale, 28, lives in an apartment across the street from the busy intersection and was one of the first people on the scene of the accident. On Thursday afternoon, she picked up litter near the memorial and kept an eye on her 4-year-old son. He weaved between her friends and climbed on the nearby rocks, but he occasionally walked toward the nearby street.

“Presley, get away from that road,” Beale cried out, rushing to grab his arm.

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