The federal investigations into the March 2011 St. Lucie school bus accident that left a 9 year old boy dead and 16 other schoolchildren injured are drawing to a close, with only the report of a federal inquiry still pending. Government officials have declared that after the completion of the investigation, no criminal charges will be filed against the driver of the bus.
Although the government investigation into the incident has officially ended, the National Transportation Safety Board will continue to use this accident as impetus to establish whether any changes are required in government bus regulations to prevent accidents like this one from occurring in the future.
According to government spokesperson Terry Williams, it is still too early to predict what the outcome of the investigation into the St Lucie incident will be. However he can confirm that no criminal charges will be filed against the bus driver, and any repercussions of the investigation findings will affect only safety regulations and legislation.
Although bus driver Albert Hazen of Port St Lucie was found to be liable for the accident, the only charge that he will face is a $160 fine from the traffic department for failure to yield to an oncoming vehicle at the intersection where the accident occurred.
After rigorous investigation, the FHP concluded in their report that criminal charges against Hazen were unnecessary, and that he was ‘just inattentive’ and not negligent when he did not yield before making a left turn in front of an oncoming sod truck at the intersection of Midway and Okeechobee roads in Port St Lucie.
The FHP report claims that the bus was fitted with seatbelts, however it is unclear as to how many of the 30 passengers, all between the ages of 5 and 10, were actually wearing them at the time of the incident. Aaron Beauchamp, the 9 year old boy who was killed in the accident, was wearing a seatbelt. The FHP reports, however, that the seatbelt was not suitable for use in a small child such as Aaron.
Although there will be no federal charges laid against Hazen, Aaron Beauchamp’s family has filed a lawsuit against the St Lucie County School District, who hired the driver. They are also suing the driver of the truck, Charles Cooper, after he was found to be guilty of a number of state traffic regulations.
Apart from Hazen’s ‘inattention’, there were no other contributing factors to the accident.