School bus crashes and pedestrian accidents at bus stops and in school zones occur too frequently. Reckless and negligent drivers injure and, sadly, kill children traveling to and from school almost every week. However, almost no parent or teacher expects schoolchildren to suffer second- and third-degree burns while riding a bus.
Alarmingly, that happened in Durham, North Carolina (NC), on the afternoon of February 9, 2015. A radiator hose under the dash of a contracted bus for the Institute for the Development of Young Leaders burst and spewed super-heated liquid into the passenger section. Four children wound up hospitalized with severe burns on their legs. Also, following the unusual equipment failure as the bus traveled through the intersection of Angier Avenue and South Hoover Road, school administrators, parents and the managers of the companies that hired out and serviced the bus face tough questions regarding the cause and liability.
Private schools share all the same responsibilities as publicly funded educational institutions for protecting the health and lives of students. This extends in many instances to bus rides for school-related activities. Legal matters get more difficult to sort out, however, when a bus is owned by an organization that operates separately from the school or school district. That is the case here, as an investigative report from WTVD-TV reveals that the Institute for the Development of Young Leaders contracted with a coach and livery company for bus services. That contractor, in turn, may have relied on its own outside contractors for maintenance. Importantly, the television station noted that the bus on which the children got burned was not subject to state inspections.
All the injured kids are expected to recover, though at least one needs skin graphs and may have to spend more than a week in the hospital. Scarring from their burns is a possibility for each of the victims.
Determining exactly why the radiator hose failed may take months. Even if the part was defective, figuring out why the hose did not get identified as a danger and replaced will be important for preventing a similar problem in the future. And, of course, answering every question about the accident and how it could have been avoided matters for assigning liability and settling insurance claims.