Alief ISD worker was driving 45 to 50 mph in school zone when she struck student, officer says

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HOUSTON – The Alief Independent School District food service worker charged in connection with a crash that critically injured a Hastings High School student appeared in probable cause court Thursday afternoon. 

Chinyere Iheagwam, 56, was originally scheduled to see a judge at 10 a.m. Thursday on a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Her hearing was pushed back to 1 p.m. after she requested an interpreter. 

Iheagwam is accused of driving recklessly and at a high speed in a school zone, first striking 18-year-old Anthony Velasquez and then driving another block and striking a student driver's car. Velasquez was rushed to a hospital and Iheagwam was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. 

In court Thursday, a witness told the judge 10 students were crossing the street at about 2:40 p.m. when the crash occurred. He said he saw a vehicle that was traveling eastbound hit a student who went airborne after being struck. 

An officer said he watched surveillance footage from a nearby high school that corroborated the witness account. He said in the video, Iheagwam passed a school bus at almost 45 to 50 mph when she struck Velasquez. 

Sean Teare, of the Harris County District Attorney's Office, said the video supports the officer's account.

"She was driving at roughly 50 miles an hour, struck one of these young men and catapulted him 20 feet in the air, and when he landed he suffered some catastrophic injuries," Teare said. "She then crashed into another car before she finally came to a stop."

Iheagwam denied going as fast as the officer said she was. She said she had just left the ninth grade center building and knew she was driving in a 20 mph school zone. She claimed she was driving at 16 mph at the time of the wreck. She also said she swerved into the middle lane to avoid hitting Velasquez but still ended up striking him. 

Her bond was set at $30,000 and no personal bond was granted. 

A GoFundMe account was created to raise funds to support Velasquez's family and medical expenses. As of Thursday evening, just over $900 were raised.