It was the first Sunday after the big snowfall and 10-years-old Michele Maley had taken her plastic, triangular-shaped sled to the grounds around Glencarlyn Elementary School in Arlington, the customary place for sledding in the Carlyn Spring Road neighborhood.
Like most of the other youngsters who had come to play in the snow, Michele had spent the afternoon sliding down a short but steep hill in front of two metal trailers that serve as portable classrooms. But shortly after 1 p.m. Michele, a fifth grader at the school, crashed head first into one of the structures. She died about two hours later at Arlington Hospital from massive head injuries suffered in the accident.
Yesterday, Glencarlyn principal Lionel Seitzer said no more sledding would be permitted on school grounds. He said fences may be placed around the area near 7th and Carlyn Springs Roads, where the incident took place, until signs prohibiting sledding are posted on the school grounds.
George Tyler of Annandale was sledding with his son at the time of the accident and was the only adult present. He said that about 15 youngsters - many of them younger than Michele - were sledding in the same general area Sunday and that several had glided down the same hill where Michele was killed.
Tyler said he found the girl in the snow near one of the classroom trailers. She apparently had crawled off her sled and gone about five feet before collapsing. He said he decided against giving the child artificial respiration because her neck appeared to be broken and "I feared I would do more harm than good if i touched" her.
The youngsters who had been playing near Michele were stunned, Tyler said; and they "just sort of went on home" after the girl was taken away in an ambulance.
School custodians yesterday placed bales of hay against the structure that Michele hit to protect any children who might have come by with their sleds later in the day, despite Seitzer's ban on sledding. Yesterday was a snow holiday for Arlington students.
Still later sand was spread around the area and the hay removed "because it posed a potential fire hazard," Seitzer said.
He described Michele, a petite, blonde-haired child, as "a very fine, able student with a positive attitude and warm personality."
The third and youngest child of Frederick and Thelma Maley, of 5631 S. 7th Pl. in Arlington, she was active in the Glencarlyn school patrol and in affairs at the family's church Greenbriar Baptist Church, according to her sister, Margaret Webb, 28.
"She was everybody's little girl," said Michele's brother Chris,21.