POMPANO BEACH (CBS4) – Was the bus driver in last Friday’s crash that severely injured a teenager following the rules of the road? CBS 4 got a chance to study the bus driver handbook and it reveals that a recent memo on a driving rule might have prevented the accident.
The memo addresses an issue shown on the bus surveillance video from last Friday’s accident that severely injured 14-year-old Jerry Cunningham — people standing in the front area of the bus while the bus is moving.
As 14 year old Jerry Cunningham ran to catch the bus last Friday in Pompano Beach, two women got onboard and started to pay their fare. While they stood in the front area the bus driver — Reinaldo Soto — slowly pulled away.
Attorneys for the boys’ family wonder if Soto even saw Cunningham. After the boy fell and was run over, Soto is heard on the surveillance video shouting out, “How did he get there? How did he get there?”
In the memo given to bus drivers by Broward County Transit officials this past March appears to give bus drivers clear direction on how to handle a similar situation with passengers up front near the step area. The memo says “…no Operator will move any bus with passengers in front of the standee line.”
Attorneys for the Cunningham’s say the video shows the driver did not use proper care.
“I think it’s unsafe to operate the bus with two people standing at the change machine at the front of the bus in and of itself,” said attorney Glen Levine.
The attorneys are also wondering whether the driver heard a passenger say as Cunningham was running to the bus with his mother behind.
A voice is heard on the video saying, “A runner’s coming.” Seconds later a voice again says “Runner.”
Cunningham’s attorneys say the charter school student is in a medically induced coma with numerous facial and head fractures, rib fractures and other injuries. The attorneys believe the video shows a bus driver who failed to protect Jerry Cunningham.
“If you don’t know, you don’t go. it’s as simple as that,” said Levine. “That’s his job as the bus driver. He’s responsible for the safe operation of that bus.”
The memo about keeping passengers out of the front area also tells bus drivers that county transit officials say have experienced many incidents that resulted in thousands of dollars in lawsuits and medical expenses over the years.
The bus driver — Reinaldo Soto — is on administration leave. He did not answer the door at his house today when we tried to speak with him this week. His personnel file shows Soto has had three preventable accidents in a county bus since 2004. He’s been a county bus driver since 2002.
Brian Clark was one of the passengers.
“I saw the kids hand,” he told CBS 4 News on Friday. “The kid was trying to get on the bus, everybody on the bus was screaming stop.”
Surveillance video from a nearby business showed the boys’ mother throwing off her shoes and frantically racing to her son. Brian Clark told us last Friday the boys’ injuries were severe.
“911 was asking questions,” he said. “(I’m saying) there”s blood coming out of his ears, his mouth, his nose.”