On January 9, 2010, a school bus crashed into a station wagon and plunged off a 20-foot drop into a ravine. The bus wreck claimed the life of one student and injured 17 others.
The students, from the Hartford Academy of Mathematics and Science, were on their way to a robotics competition. They never made it.
“We are saddened to confirm that a student from the Greater Hartford Academy of Mathematics and Science was fatally injured this morning during a very serious accident on I-84 west. A bus driver, a teacher and 15 students from GHAMAS were also injured,” said Bruce Douglas of the Capitol Region Education Council after the wreck. “Our hearts, and the hearts of every educator and parent goes out to his parents, his family, his community in Rocky Hill, students and faculty of the Greater Hartford Academy of Math and Science, and the entire CREC community. They will all be in our prayers. This kind of incomprehensible tragedy is always on our minds. It is something we work tirelessly to prevent.”
Vikas Parikh, 16, described as one of the “best and brightest” honor students, was killed in the bus crash. His sister Mayha said, “My mom got an email from a guidance counselor that he was first in class in ninth and tenth grade. She got that email of Friday . . . He was very into robotics, the type of thing a mechanical engineer would be into. My sister and I didn’t get in to doing that, but anytime there was a computer problem, they knew where to turn to. It’s just sad you’ll never see him graduate high school. He had his permit, but he never got his license . . . He was too young.”
The bus driver, Paul Burns, 44, told WFSB News, “All of a sudden I hear something colliding to the side of the bus and it was forcing the bus all the way to the right and I was doing everything I could to hold the bus on the road.”
A DMV investigation revealed that Burns was driving a bus out of class. Burns had a commercial driver license for school buses with a total weight of up to 26,000 pounds. The bus he was driving weight 29,800 pounds.
Burns said he didn’t know that he was driving out of class and that his managers never told him that the bus was over the weight limit for his license. He said he had been driving the same bus for two months.
“I was not informed that it was over the limit because if I had known, I would not have drive the bus,” said Burns. “I just want to apologize wholeheartedly for what happened on Saturday morning because I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, and I never want to see it happen to anyone every again.”
Further investigation revealed that Autumn Transportation, the school bus company in charge of the bus, was cited for 65 out-of-service violations in 2008. These violations mean that the buses were not up to code. IN 2009, the number of violations doubled! Why was this company still in charge of transporting school children and keeping them safe?
Hopefully some answers will be brought to light in court. The family of Parikh has decided to sue Burns as well as 16-year-old Christopher Toppi, the driver of the other vehicle involved in the wreck.
If you’ve been injured in a bus wreck caused by negligence, contact an experienced attorney immediately. You may be entitled to compensation. Call MLN Law at 404-531-9700 to schedule a free consultation.