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N4T Investigators: Lawsuit claims "gross negligence" in fatal c - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

N4T Investigators: Lawsuit claims "gross negligence" in fatal crash

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Tucson - "Kim was a very viable young lady. Even with her disability, it didn't stop her. She wanted to just do for others," says Lynn Ebersbacher, talking about his daughter.

Lynn says though his daughter Kim was confined to a wheelchair with cerebral palsy, she did volunteer work for various charities and had a positive outlook on life. A life that ended last Sept. 27. Kim was returning home when a Tanque Verde Unified School District bus jumped the curb at Speedway and Kolb and slammed into Kim on the sidewalk. She died at the scene. She was 43 years old. 

In his first interview since his daughter was killed, Lynn Ebersbacher said, "This tragedy, all of it could have been prevented if they had just taken care of what they're supposed to do. And I just pray that out of this tragedy that some of this could be resolved. And this wouldn't have happened."

Ebersbacher is suing the Tanque Verde School District, the state, and the bus driver, alleging "gross negligence." His attorney, Joanne Hallinan, told the News 4 Tucson Investigators, "This accident occurred because the bus driver passed out and lost control of a bus that we have since found had major defects."

According to the Tucson Police Department report, the only passenger on the bus, a teenaged girl, said she saw the bus driver passed out before the crash and yelled at him to try to wake him up. The report says the driver had a pre-existing medical condition and that after the crash he told detectives, "Just remembering waking up and seeing a branch in the windshield." The driver was not cited, and investigators said there were no drugs or alcohol in his system.

However, Hallinan says her investigators found that the bus had wiring and exhaust problems and the air conditioning did not work on a 90-degree day and that may have played a part in the driver passing out. And she says the 17-year-old bus was not thoroughly inspected. Vehicle inspection reports from the Department of Public Safety for 2015, 2016 and 2017 show two of those inspections each took 10 minutes, the other, 15 minutes.

Hallinan said, "Those inspections, according to a commercial vehicle inspector, should take closer to an hour, at least more than 30 minutes. They're supposed to touch on 60 aspects of that bus, by mandated law."

The Tanque Verde School District declined an interview. Instead, a spokesperson sent us the following statement:

     "As has been reported, one of our District’s school buses was involved in a fatal accident in September of 2017.   We express our profound sympathy to those affected by the accident.  The District has fully cooperated with the investigation of the accident by local law enforcement.

As a result of this accident, a lawsuit was filed in Pima County Superior Court against the District. Because this matter is in litigation, we cannot comment on the specific facts of this case, but the District adamantly rejects the unsupported allegations made in the litigation and looks forward to bringing all facts to light through the legal process."

Lynn Ebersbacher says, "There's no way I can get my girl back,but we could do something for her that maybe could help other ones that this doesn't happen to."

Was this just a tragic accident caused by the driver blacking out, or, as the plaintiff's attorney says, did the driver's pre-existing medical condition or the bus' condition contribute to it? That will be decided as the lawsuit plays out. The attorney is seeking $450,000 from the Tanque Verde School district and the same amount from the state.

If you have a story you'd like us to investigate, email us at investigators@kvoa.com or call our tip line at 520-955-4444. 

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