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In Memory

Charlotte Urban

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06/27/11 01:48 PM #1    

Jim Ryan


October 4, 1997
Page: A1

   Rory McClannahan And Guillermo Contreras Journal Staff Writers
Woman, Student Hit at West Side Elementary
A special-education bus jumped a crowded sidewalk as school let out at a West Side elementary Friday, killing a fifth-grader and the mother of two other students. The woman and child were trapped under the bus for at least 15 minutes as dozens of students at Marie Hughes Elementary watched rescue workers.
The fifth-grader's mother also was struck by the bus, according to a spokesman for the Albuquerque Public Schools district. She was taken to University Hospital and was in satisfactory condition late Friday with a broken leg.
Tony Herrera, spokesman for the Albuquerque Police Department, identified the dead woman as Charlotte Cobo, 34. The identities of the 10-year-old boy and his mother were being withheld pending notification of relatives.
The three were waiting near the bus pickup zone at the school when the vehicle suddenly backed up over the curb, according to Rick Murray, Albuquerque Public Schools spokesman. The school is at 5701 Mojave NW in Taylor Ranch.
Murray said the bus pulled into the bus lane as school let out about 3:30 p.m. when "there was a malfunction with the bus, causing it to move in reverse and jump the curb."
The vehicle "somehow went backward and climbed the curb, where several people were standing," he said. It hit the three people, pinning the boy under the left-rear wheel and Cobo under the bus and against a concrete berm.
Murray said Friday afternoon he didn't know if the accident was caused by a technical malfunction or driver error.
Cobo's husband, Carlos, said Friday night his wife is a former teacher and was volunteering at the school, where their 6- and 8-year-old daughters attend classes.
On Friday, she had spent some time at the school and decided to wait for the girls. As she was walking on the sidewalk with them, the bus went back and Cobo pushed them out of the way. But she was unable to avoid the bus, her husband said.
"She was a giver," Carlos Cobo said.
Charlotte Cobo, originally from Clovis, was a pianist for Church on the Rock.
"She was doing all the right things," Carlos said. " It's a loss for the church, our family, the school system the community."
Murray said teachers went to the bus and tried to administer first aid to the victims. Rescue personnel with the Albuquerque Fire Department ultimately lifted the bus with special airbags, said District 3 Fire Chief Bobby Halton.
Arleen Moreno, whose 10-year-old son, Danny, was near the accident when it happened, was distraught afterward.
"It had to be a tragic thing (to witness) for all the children," she said. "I'm worried about him. He's here with me now, but a few feet more and it would have been him.
"He saw it all," she added. "He's too young to see something like that. He's supposed to be safe at school."
Police are investigating the accident and questioned the driver, who works for Herrera Bus Co., Murray said. Officials for the bus company could not be reached for comment Friday evening.
The bus is smaller than most school buses and is used to transport about 22 special-education and handicapped students, Murray said, adding he believes the only person on the bus at the time of the accident was the driver, who was only identified as a woman.
School bus drivers go through extensive training at a school in Silver City, Murray explained.
"We just don't take any driver and stick them in the buses," he said.
Murray said late Friday that police tested the driver for any presence of alcohol or other "substances," but added that that's standard procedure, especially in fatal accidents.
He also said investigators with the state Department of Transportation were going to impound the bus and dismantle it to check for mechanical defects.
Paul Martinez, who was going to the school to pick up his son, said Friday afternoon that he came upon the scene soon after the accident occurred.
"I went in there to try and help lift the bus," Martinez said. "But the firefighters told us to get away."
Police, rescue workers and school employees hustled kids and parents who witnessed the incident into the school's media center for questioning.
Kathleen Flaherty, a school administrator, said most of the children were shocked but were also curious. She was trying to get a group of 40 children away from the scene, but most stood staring at the swarm of rescue workers trying to free the victims.
"It's traumatic enough as it is, and we don't want the kids to see more than they need to," Flaherty said.
APS provided counselors to comfort teachers, parents and children Friday afternoon after the incident. Superintendent Peter Horoschak said there will be counseling services from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at the school, as well as when classes resume Monday.
Murray said once rescue vehicles arrived, school officials began to make calls informing parents what had happened.
"People see this on the news, and everybody wonders if it's their child," he said.

06/27/11 01:50 PM #2    

Jim Ryan


October 5, 1997
Page: A1

   Jeff Jones Journal Staff Writer
* Mourners' flowers, tears mark the deaths of mother and fifth-grader at Marie M. Hughes Elementary
Grieving children, parents and teachers came to a West Side elementary school Saturday to help them deal with the pain and sadness of Albuquerque's worst public school bus accident. Some came to talk with counselors. Others sobbed and shared long embraces. And others came to place a bouquet or a candle near the now jagged section of concrete where 10-year-old Anthony Coccia and Charlotte Cobo, a 34-year-old mother of two, were crushed to death Friday by a school bus that backed over a sidewalk curb.
Marisa Escobar, an 8-year-old student at Marie M. Hughes Elementary on Mojave NW, brought a few flowers she had picked in an arroyo. She said she had been becoming friends with Anthony, a fifth-grader. And on the strip of paper she used to wrap her homemade bouquet, she had written, "We will miss you! Love, Marisa."
"I just wanted to come over here and give him the flowers. He was nice," Marisa said in a quiet voice. Like many other children at the school, she witnessed part of the accident.
"I just saw the bus go back," she said. "I was afraid that they would die. They did."
The accident also pinned Anthony's mother, 35-year-old Lori Coccia, under one of the tires of the special-education bus. She suffered a broken leg and was listed in satisfactory condition Saturday at University Hospital.
Albuquerque Public Schools spokesman Rick Murray said that as of early Saturday evening, investigators hadn't released the name of the female bus driver or specified whether the accident had been caused by the driver or by a mechanical malfunction of the bus.
The bus has an automatic transmission, Murray said. He said state inspectors were to do a "full inspection" on the bus Saturday, but officials who did the inspection could not be located for comment. Murray said the Albuquerque Police Department's initial report on the accident was due Monday.
Murray said backing up a bus without an attendant goes against recommendations by the state Department of Education. He added the driver behind the wheel of the bus Friday was not the regular driver of the vehicle.
Murray said the bus did not have a back-up warning device, which emits a loud noise when a vehicle is put in reverse. But he said such devices apparently aren't required on school buses. He added the bus came up over the curb so fast that a warning device likely wouldn't have made a difference.
About 30,000 children in the Albuquerque Public Schools district ride a bus to and from school each day, Murray said.
"This is obviously the most serious bus accident in APS history," he said.
The accident took place about 3:30 p.m. as school was being let out, and dozens of children and parents witnessed it. Anthony and Cobo were trapped under the bus for at least 15 minutes as firefighters worked to free them.
Ali Surodjawan, an assistant chief with the Albuquerque Fire Department, said the incident was traumatic for everyone who saw it -- including fire crew members.
"Children always affect us," Surodjawan said Saturday as he stood near the memorial of flowers. "You have a mother who was trapped under the bus with her dead son, holding his hand. She was asking us, 'Is he going to be OK?' We had to tell her he was dead. We had so many kids that were friends that saw what happened. That's pretty deep stuff for everybody."
Frances Waters, a Marie Hughes teacher, said staff members were quick to bring the students back inside the school after the accident.
"They were just sobbing and sobbing," Waters said. "We were giving them water and Kleenex, trying to calm them down."
Surodjawan said counselors spoke Friday night with the firefighters. And Murray said 15 counselors were at the school Saturday to talk with parents, students and staff members.
Janis Keene, principal of the school, said about 60 families had come to see counselors by 1:30 p.m.
Murray said the counseling team will be back at the school Monday, and parents are welcome.
One counselor, Delfino Arellano, said parents of children who were upset by the incident should encourage the children to talk about it. Arellano also advised those parents to spend plenty of time with their children.
Murray said that, according to Keene, Anthony was a bigger boy than many of his classmates -- a "big teddy bear" that people seemed to immediately like.
Keene said Saturday that this was Anthony's first year at the school.
"He met kids and made friends instantly," Keene said. "Funny, bright, articulate, very likable. Very close to his mom."
Cobo was the mother of two children who attend the school -- Camille, 6, and Christi, 8. This is also their first year at the school, Keene said.
Keene said Cobo came into the school Friday morning and found the employees shorthanded, so she volunteered to answer phones and call to inquire about absent children.
Cobo came back to school later in the day to pick up Christi and Camille, and the three were walking back to her vehicle when the accident happened.
"They didn't have a chance," said Carlos Cobo, Charlotte's husband, on Saturday as he sat in the living room of the family's northwest Albuquerque home. "You're on the school grounds. You're on the sidewalk. You think you're safe."
Cobo was a pianist for a local church. The family had recently purchased a Steinway piano for her, and Carlos Cobo called the piano his wife's "dream of a lifetime."
Cobo had been practicing to play a solo, "How Majestic Is Your Name," today at the church, Carlos Cobo added.
"She played for God," he said. "She played with a purpose."
John Urban of Clovis, Cobo's father, said calls of support have been pouring in from family and friends. He and other family members thanked Albuquerque residents for their love and concern.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the little boy," he said.

06/27/11 01:54 PM #3    

Jim Ryan


Charlotte Nell Cobo
  Charlotte Nell Urban Cobo, 34, died Friday, Oct 3, 1997.
  Memorial services will be at 11 a.m. today in the First United Methodist Church sanctuary with Dr. Bill Sylskar, the Rev. David Swann and the Rev. Jack Webb officiating. Graveside services for the family will precede the memorial services in Mission Garden of Memories.
Arrangements are by Steed-Todd Funeral Home of Clovis.
  Mrs. Cobo was born in Clovis. She graduated with honors from Clovis
High School in 1981. She received a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Eastern New Mexico University in 1986.
  She married Carlos in 1983. They moved to Tempe, Ariz. She taught mathematics at Willis Junior High School in Chandler, Ariz.
  They lived in Corpus Christi, Texas, before moving to Albuquerque in 1996. While living in Corpus Christi, Mrs. Cobo was church pianist for Church of Acts. After moving to Albuquerque, she was pianist for Church on the Rock.
  She was a volunteer at Marie Hughes Elementary School.
  Survivors include her husband; two daughters, Christi and Camille; her
parents, John and Mary Nell Urban of Clovis; two brothers, Kenny Urban
of Oklahoma City and Johnny Urban of Tulsa, Okla.; and grandmothers,
Katherine McCullough of Clovis and Beatriz de Cobo of Cali, Colombia,
South America.

06/27/11 01:56 PM #4    

Jim Ryan

I always thought that Charlotte was the kindest, sweetest girl in the world. You were taken from us far to early. Rest in Peace Charlotte !

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