Fence memorial
A number of 3 x 5 cards were attached by school children to a fence outside washington school in Pontiac in memory of Bryan Baker who was killed in a bicycle accident, Wednesday. Counselors met with school children this morning as they attempt to understand the accident. (The Pantagraph, Marlo Guetersloh) Marlo Guetersloh

PONTIAC -- Children in Pontiac's Washington Elementary School wrote stories and drew pictures Thursday to express their grief over the loss of a 10-year-old classmate who died Wednesday evening in a bicycle accident.

Bryan Baker was killed when his bicycle was struck by a pickup truck about two miles east of Pontiac, police said. He died at 6:34 p.m. Wednesday at OSF Saint James-John W. Albrecht Medical Center, said Livingston County Coroner Mike Burke.

The fifth-grader was riding his bicycle north on Livingston County Road 1900 East with family members when he was struck by an eastbound pickup truck as he crossed Illinois 116, Burke said.

"Bryan was a kid with a smile on his face all the time. That's what the kids were talking about this morning," said Pontiac elementary school Superintendent Steve Graham on Thursday. "He made other people smile to be around him."

The son of Phillip and Dawn Baker of rural Pontiac played drums in the school band, loved riding his dirt bike and bicycling and playing video games.

The school's students and staff gathered at 7:30 a.m. Thursday around the flagpole, which was set at half staff, for a quiet prayer time before school started, said Graham, a friend of the Baker family.

Bryan and his family are well-liked and have been active in the community, he said.

Psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors and pastors from the Institute for Human Resources, the Livingston County Special Services Unit and the Ministerial Alliance were available all day at Washington and the adjacent Pontiac Junior High School, where Bryan's brother Austin is an eight-grader.

Students wrote about their feelings on paper, on posters on the wall and in messages hung on a chain-link fence.

"Our first action is to take care of the kids and get the healing process started," Graham said.

Bryan's own class had extended recess and extra assistance.

His oldest brother, Drew, is a member of Pontiac Township High School's wrestling team, which still is grieving the loss of a teammate who died in a swimming accident in June.

"The wrestling team was called together to make sure they got the support and information they need," said Jon Kilgore, high school principal.

The high school, which is in separate school district, also offered counseling.

"We walk a fine line to respect someone's privacy and the support of an arm that might be needed," said high school Superintendent Leo Johnson. He said homecoming festivities at the school this week won't be as meaningful for many because of the loss.

Bryan's death remains under investigation by Burke's office and Illinois State Police. State police said Thursday they are releasing no information for now on the driver or whether any tickets will be issued.

-- M.K. Guetersloh contributed to this report.

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