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Lawsuit: Dist. 303, bus driver failed to secure boy's wheelchair

Parents of a special needs student at Wredling Middle School have sued St. Charles Unit District 303 for damages, arguing a bus driver in August 2019 neglected to strap the boy's 387-pound wheelchair to the floor.

The wheelchair tipped over on top of the boy while the bus driver dropped off another student, and the boy's parents weren't notified of his injuries until a half-hour later, the suit that was filed in Kane County in late July argues.

Sam Amirante, a lawyer for the family, said an audio and video recording from the bus shows the negligence of the employees, as well as willful and wanton conduct that resulted in multiple broken bones and a nearly two-month hospitalization for the boy.

"He was smothered under the wheelchair, almost a 400-pound chair was on top of him," Amirante said Thursday. "They were standing over the kid, laughing about it. This was beyond an accident. It was horrible and egregious."

In addition to the school district, the district's transportation director, bus driver and bus aide also are named as defendants.

According to the lawsuit, the boy, who was 13 at the time, was one of four students on a bus at 3:46 p.m. when the bus driver and aide tried to secure the wheelchair.

After three minutes of trying to secure the wheelchair, the driver walked to the front of the bus and said, "Shoot ... I've got a lot of kids this afternoon ... I'll just be careful going around corners," according to the suit.

The driver "carelessly operated the school bus by heavily and abruptly applying the brakes to avoid missing a turn, thereby causing (the boy's) wheelchair to fall forward on top of him. Almost a whole minute passed before (the driver) stopped the bus," according to the lawsuit.

Instead of helping the boy, the driver dropped off another student, then began driving again, causing the wheelchair to tip further on top of boy, according to the suit.

The driver finally stopped and called 911. Paramedics found the boy pinned between the wheelchair and the bus sidewall, and both the driver and aide "were unwilling to give information to first responders or help in any way as to what happened," according to the suit.

Carol Smith, spokeswoman for the school district, said the district cannot comment on litigation. Amirante said the family hopes for an amicable and quick resolution to the lawsuit.

The two sides are due in court on Oct 15. The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

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