ATHENS, Texas — Nearly 3,000 people have signed a petition calling for charges to be dropped against a school bus driver involved in a crash with a train in January, and for the railroad crossing it occurred at to be changed.
As SBF previously reported, John Stevens was driving his bus on Jan. 25 when he approached a railroad crossing and came to a stop, but then continued across the tracks directly in front of a westbound Union Pacific train, according to the Athens Police Department. The bus was impacted on its left side and became lodged on the locomotive. One of the two students on board was ejected from the bus and died of his injuries. The other student had to be extricated from the bus and was critically injured. Stevens suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
The Athens Police Department released a report in February, as SBF previously reported, that states that Stevens stopped right before the tracks as state law requires, and then pulled forward. It was at that point that the bus was struck by the train.
Stevens was charged in June with injury to a child causing serious bodily injury and manslaughter/criminally negligent homicide. He pleaded not guilty during an arraignment on July 3, CBS DFW reports.
The petition, “Drop Charges Against John Franklin Stevens (Athen, Tx. Bus Driver),” was started by Catherine Hollis. She writes that many people “in the area” avoid the crossing, and that no changes have been made to it since the crash occurred.
“With any tragedy, we seek a place to lay blame; this is one of those tragedies,” Hollis writes in the petition. “The loss of the young boy’s life was tragic, many of us shed tears for him, for his family. However, every report shows that the driver followed the law.”
Hollis also includes news stories with details on the crash, including one from CBS DFW in which a train accident lawyer refers to the crossing as a “death trap.”
As of Friday, the petition has received 2,746 signatures.