Seven months after Kentucky State Police concluded that a Carroll County school bus driver was at fault in a fatal 2012 rollover crash, the driver has filed a lawsuit against school bus manufacturer IC Bus.
Though police cited operator error in the accident that killed two 3-year-olds, Caroline Tuttle and Ryder Deitz, no charges were filed against the bus driver, Laura Reed. Also, speed was not cited as a factor.
The Head Start students reportedly died instantly when their small, Type A school bus overturned and smashed into a tree on Oct. 29, 2012. After the collision, Reed told investigators she steered the bus off the road to let another car pass, but then lost control when she tried to get the bus back on the two-lane county road.
The accident reconstruction found Reed caused the crash by over-correcting and over-steering, causing the bus to veer off the road and wrap around a tree, according to investigators. They added that the bus had “all the safety precautions any modern bus can have.”
Now Reed, who is represented by attorney Dale Golden, is suing IC Bus, claiming the OEM sold the bus in a defective condition, making it unreasonably dangerous to the user, reports LEX18 News.
"There should have been an alternative design, something safer," Golden said.
Carroll County coroner David Wilhoite, who worked as a firefighter during the 1987 Carrollton bus crash — the second deadliest bus disaster in the nation — said if there had been “more of a roll bar on the roof,” that would have helped the situation.
All school bus manufacturers must meet federal motor vehicle safety standards that include rollover protection.
IC Bus said in a statement that: “IC school buses are built to meet or exceed all federal and State of Kentucky school bus safety standards.”
In the end, a jury may decide whether the bus model in question provides adequate protection to passengers in rollover accidents.
Carroll County Schools operates 17 bus routes, according to its website, not including its Head Start routes. The transportation director would not comment on the makeup of the district's fleet. A Carroll County Head Start representative told STN the district has three school buses transport their preschool students on four runs each school day.