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Disaster and Accident

Attorney that sued in previous Macon school bus accident claims event was preventable

The Tuskegee News of Tuskegee, Alabama

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Hearts are heavy in Macon County where 5-year-old Bissiah Hedges lost his life on the way to school Monday. Investigators said he dropped his backpack in front of the bus, and when he leaned down to pick it up, the bus driver simply could not see him. Now, a Montgomery attorney says the tragic accident could have been prevented.

"It's not a similar case, it's identical to the situation that we had before," attorney Michael Strickland explained.

In 2011, 6-year-old Solomon Davis was run over by a Macon County school bus. He suffered a crushed pelvis, ruptured spleen, and internal bleeding. Davis survived, but still needs more surgeries.

"All of this was just like Solomon, and all of this could have been prevented," Strickland said.

Strickland filed the lawsuit for the Davis family and settled with the school bus manufacturer and the bus driver for an undisclosed amount of money. Davis said the school boards can request sensors to be added to the front of the buses to avoid these tragic accidents.

"When you take the deposition of the corporate representative or their experts in cases like this, they will always tell you — we are not required to put the device on our automobile or school buses," Strickland said.

Loading and unloading the school bus is the most dangerous part of a student's day. Despite cameras inside the bus to monitor the students and bus drivers, most districts lack sensors on the front of the bus.

"It's sad we have to continue to have children to be injured or lose their lives when it's all preventable," Strickland said. "This is something that's 100 percent preventable."

The school board and school district are protected by state law from lawsuits of this nature, leaving the bus drivers and manufacturers open for litigation.

The school bus driver works for the school board — there's a complete, absolute immunity," Strickland said. "You cannot sue the individual board members, you cannot sue the board of education or those provided insurance by the board of education, but many times when you have a child that is injured the money is not enough to treat the child's medical bills."

Macon County Schools Superintendent Jacqueline Brooks released this statement on her Face-book page:

Parents and community

This morning I indicated in a School Messenger call that one of our precious student's life was lost in a bus accident during our morning route. This accident occurred in Armstrong, a South Macon Community near Ft. Davis. I truly have no words that can adequately capture or express the grief and sorrow of this situation. Our hearts are heavy with unspeakable emotion and sadness.

We thank you for your support and ask for your continued prayers for the family, the community, and the school district.

Our next steps will be to review the incident to ensure that we gain information to push bus and transportation safety to new heights throughout the nation.

Jacqueline Brooks

State Troopers continue to investigate the accident, but initially maintain it looks to be nothing more than a tragedy.

From WSFA Television

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Original Publication Date: November 5, 2015

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