Two Hurt in ECISD Bus Accident Taking Driver, Company to Court
March 31, 2014 at 10:43 PM CDT - Updated July 10 at 5:51 PM
ODESSA - A bold red sign and a bright yellow bus were both overlooked Wednesday morning leading to a crash soon after. The ECISD school bus crash is now at the center of a lawsuit.
State troopers say the bus driver was driving on Mercury Avenue when a pickup truck ran a stop sign on West 22nd Street and slammed into the bus, sending it into a fence. Three of the 18 students on the bus plus the bus driver, Barbara Knott, had been taken to Medical Center Hospital. From there, a ninth grader at Crockett Junior High, Jonathan Gonzales, had to be flown to Lubbock.
Now, Knott and Gonzalez's mother, Stephanie Rubalcaba, are taking the driver and his employer, National Oil Well Varco, to court for their injuries suffered. Noe Valles, who is the lawyer for the injured pair, says the driver of the pickup is to blame but it's the company that needs to be held accountable.
He's pushing for companies to do a better job of training their drivers, "and telling them either number one that they've gotta slow down, or number two, that they've gotta pay attention to the traffic devices, I mean he had a stop sign," Valles said.
Authorities say the lawsuit was filed Monday morning because they wanted to speed up the process, "to make sure that the vehicles involved in accidents like this don't get sold for scrap metal," Valles explained.
He also added that another reason to bring this to litigation so quickly is to be able to download the information from the vehicle if it exists, "because most vehicles nowadays have what we call a black box, where you can get information such as speed, party impact, things like that," Valles said.
All local patients were released from the hospital last week and Gonzales was discharged last Wednesday but Valles said they're still seeking medical help.
"We won't find out if there are any permanent injuries until down the road. A lot of it is going to depend on the kind of medical treatment they get and then what the doctor thinks," he said.
Knott and Rubalcaba haven't requested a monetary settlement but medical bills will be "factored into the equation" according to Valles for what the jury might call a settlement. Valles said more than money, they just hope others will take this as a warning sign.
"Maybe some companies will see what happened here and if they can take any necessary actions as far as either reminding their employees to be more careful, to slow down, things like that. I feel that we will have accomplished something if we can prevent another accident like this from happening," Valles said.
The DA's office is in charge of filing any charges against the driver. At this time, we don't know whether Paul Dodson had a driving record. NewsWest 9 reached out to National Oil Well Varco multiple times and left several messages but have not heard back.
There's no date set yet for when the case will go to trial.