'He was a wonderful man': Lafayette middle school copes with loss of crossing guard Ashley Dias

LAFAYETTE, Calif. (KGO) -- The memorial is growing in front of a Lafayette middle school, one day after a 45-year-old crossing guard was killed. Witnesses say it all happened just seconds after Ashley Dias saved the life of at least one child from an oncoming SUV.

Gretchen Placzek was one among many who stopped by the memorial, signs and flowers paying tribute to Dias in front of Stanley Middle School Wednesday afternoon.

"He was a wonderful man," said Placzek, who told us she knew Dias personally. "This is really tragic and this street is horrific for dropping kids off. And he's a hero."

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Dias' parents told ABC7 News their son was a kind man, who had returned to his job as a crossing guard at Stanley a couple days ago.

"It is hard. It is unbelievable," said Dias' father Fabio Dias. "Just this morning we spoke to him in the afternoon at 2 o'clock just before he went to the crossing."

Witnesses say Dias pushed at least one child out of the way and before being hit by the GMC SUV.

VIDEO: Crossing guard killed while shoving children out of vehicle's path, witnesses say

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A crossing guard was killed while shoving children out of a vehicle's path in Kansas City, Kansas.



Jeanine Arnold told us her kids were nearby on their bikes.

"My kids were in the crosswalk yesterday," said Arnold, choking back tears. "I met them on the trail. They rode their bikes, dropped their bikes, just came to me, hugged me. They were crying and they had a hard time sleeping last night."

This accident comes as Lafayette and other districts are facing a severe shortage in the number of people willing to step up and be school crossing guards.
The company that hires for Lafayette schools posted recently about a desperate need for crossing guards, who are paid 56 dollars per day.

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"We are having difficulty finding folks who are willing to step forward. It's not high paid work. People just want to help their community," explained Patricia Pohl, Vice-President of All City Management Services. "I don't know how we describe the profound sadness at the loss of this young man's life."

Pohl told us Dias' death was the first fatality in her company's history.

"He was a hero," said Arnold. "I just feel gratitude for him and the life he lived that led him to be here in that place to protect those kids."

ABC7 News has confirmed the driver of the car was a grandmother picking up her grandson. The woman's son told us the family is "devastated" by what happened.

Police are investigating, but so far no charges have been filed.
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