COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa — Last week we exclusively reported on a parent claiming negligence regarding his daughter with autism who was injured on a school bus. Now the investigation has wrapped up and two people have been fired.
8-year-old Elizabeth Espinoza can't speak and has to use a wheelchair to get around. On February 5, she fell over in her wheelchair on-board a school bus during a Hoover Elementary School field trip. The incident left father Ramon Espinoza heartbroken and filled with questions. He didn't know how she fell, or why. No one was giving him any answers. All he knew was that his little girl was diagnosed with a concussion, despite school officials assuring him she didn't have a hard fall.
Now First Student Inc., the bus company who runs the Council Bluff's Community School District's buses, has claimed responsibility, apologized, fired two staff members who were on the bus the time of the incident and has offered the Espinoza's medical compensation.
"They told me they were taking full responsibility, that the bus driver and the bus driver attendant they both shared 50 percent of the responsibility of restraining my daughter properly to the bus and neither of them did their job," Ramon Espinoza said.
Turns out the bus monitor did not secure Elizabeth's front wheelchair latches and the bus driver did not double check before taking off.
In a statement, First Student Inc. Corporate Communications Manager Jen Biddinger said,
"There is nothing more important than the safety of the students we transport. The driver and monitor involved in this incident are no longer employed by First Student. We are disappointed by their actions. All drivers and monitors at our Council Bluffs location are currently being retrained on proper wheelchair securement. We recognize the tremendous amount of trust parents place in us every school day to provide safe and reliable transportation. It is a responsibility we take very seriously."
Compensation, an explanation and disciplinary actions is all that Mr. Espinoza wanted.
"I really feel like they truly, maybe they are sorry for what happened. Because of their actions," Espinoza said.
In a statement, Council Bluffs Community School District Superintendent Dr. Vickie Murillo said,
"We are satisfied that First Student Bus Company has taken appropriate action, and that they are providing additional safety training to their employees."
Mr. Espinoza says Elizabeth is healing well and will return to school Tuesday.