Girl's family gets $2 million settlement in New Jersey school bus death

Jan. 18, 2018
14-year-old special needs student from Paterson, N.J., died in 2013 after stepping off a moving school bus.

The parents of a 14-year-old special needs student in Paterson, N.J., who died five years ago after stepping out of the rear emergency door of a moving school bus will receive $2 million in a lawsuit settlement.

The Paterson Press reports that the settlement calls for the insurance provider for the bus company, K&M Transportation to pay $1.3 million; the Paterson school district and its insurance company will split the remaining $700,000 payment, the district says.

Onynx Williams died on Jan. 5, 2013, from injuries she suffered in the bus accident three days earlier. The girl had attended elementary schools in Paterson until her diagnosis led to her enrollment in the Venture program, run by the Bergen County Special Services School District in Hackensack ,in February 2012, the lawsuit says. 

Onynx was classified as "emotionally disturbed" with multiple diagnoses, court documents say.

The suit says Onynx complained that the van that transported her between her home in Paterson and the school in Hackensack was too small. In one instance, she refused to board the van and walked off the Venture campus without looking for traffic as she crossed the street.

About a month before the girl’s death, Venture staff sent the Paterson district an email saying that Onynx should get “separate transportation in order to decrease these incidents of running away from the school building at the end of the school day.” 

In the lawsuit, the family contended that K&M’s wasn't fulfilling its contract with the Paterson school district; the agreement required that two aides be on the van and prohibited the company from picking up children in other towns while taking Onynx to Hackensack.

Police reports at the time of the death noted there was just one aide on the van when Onynx stepped through the rear emergency door and that the vehicle was in Lyndhurst at the time of the incident on its way to drop off a child in that town.

The Paterson district terminated its busing contract with K&M Transportation days after the incident, saying the company was in violation of its agreement. State officials said this week that K&M ended up going out of business.

The girl's parents still have pending claims against Bergen County Special Services School District.

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