Press "Enter" to skip to content

Family of Cary 3-year-old killed by school bus sues Crystal Lake school districts, bus driver

The mother of a Cary three-year-old who was killed after being hit by a school bus in May witnessed the crash take place, according to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family.

After the crash took place, the bus driver worried about her job and said the child “ran out in front of me,” alleged the lawsuit, which was filed on Monday against Crystal Lake Elementary School District 47, Community High School District 155, the Transportation Joint Agreement and the bus driver.

“In my 25 years of practice, this is one of the worst tragedies I have ever seen,” attorney Glen Dunn, who is representing the family in the lawsuit, said on Thursday. “It’s so sad and also terrifying and horrifying.”

Three-year-old Samuel Huddleston was outside playing in front of his house in Cary on his toy scooter on May 16, while his mother, Rachel, supervised him, the lawsuit states.

While doing so, Rachel saw a school bus “flying down” the road, the lawsuit alleges. The bus was operated by the Transportation Joint Agreement, which is the agreement the two school districts operate their transportation services through.

The bus, driven by Koleen Janquart, was turning left from Cherry Street onto Hill Street and ran over Samuel despite his mother trying to “wave off and yell” at the bus, the lawsuit states.

After hitting Samuel, which caused him to land on the roadway, the bus hit the toddler a second time, rolling over his body, “causing him great pain, harm, suffering, injury and ultimately … death,” according to the lawsuit.

Janquart, who had one student on the bus at the time of the crash, began to scream expletives and that she “ran over a kid,” the lawsuit states, citing the child on board. She then contacted her employer, but did not call 911, the lawsuit alleges.

Her supervisor, Assistant Director of Transportation Teresa Peragine, then came to the scene, and entered the bus despite police securing it and saying no one could enter, the lawsuit states. Peragine then began trying to access the onboard video and audio, and disregarded police orders to get off the bus.

Reports of the incident from the Cary Police Department show Peragine got onto the bus while the officer tasked with watching the bus was talking to another neighbor. While one report states she was trying to get Janquart’s purse and phone, Officer Will Halasz said she was attempting to get the video from the bus. He then told her to “remove herself from the bus or she would be removed.”

Peragine’s personnel file provided by District 47 show she applied for the role of assistant director in May 2021 and was hired in June. She was reprimanded in February and in May 2022 for “unprofessional conduct,” with both letters stating this hadn’t been the first time she acted that way, citing various times she was rude or inappropriate.

The second reprimand, which was labeled as a “final warning,” came a week after Huddleston’s death, and detailed further unprofessional conduct both at the scene of the crash and the days after, along with a number of other incidences. Her employment status is not known at the moment, but she is not listed as director of transportation on the District 47 website.

Peragine told police to go get a supervisor and said she would wait on the bus, according to the lawsuit. She then got off after being instructed that she would be removed if she didn’t comply.

“There are some very big question marks in this case,” Dunn said. “And we intend to get to the bottom of them.”

One of those questions pertains to the video of the crash, which is not available, the lawsuit states. Despite video and audio being available for the bus’ morning trips, the content is missing for the afternoon.

The lawsuit alleges the districts would have provided the video “if they believed that the evidence would be favorable to them.” The lawsuits states that at no point have the districts provided a “reasonable excuse” for why the video is missing.

“On information and belief, [district and TJA officials] converted, copied, moved, backed up, and/or deleted data on the video and audio hard drive taken from [the bus],” the lawsuit states.

Officials with both Districts 47 and 155 could not be reached for immediate comment on Thursday.

Documents from the Cary Police Department about the crash show the bus’ hard drive was recovered. On June 14, nearly a month after the crash, one officer removed the hard drive from evidence to complete a search warrant. No further information is given on the search, and the hard drive was sealed and put back into evidence about 20 minutes later.

Attorneys out of Chicago-based law firm Tressler LLP are representing Janquart both for a pair of tickets she received as a result of the crash, and for the wrongful death lawsuit, attorney Charles LeMoine with the firm confirmed on Thursday.

LeMoine said Janquart has not yet been served with the lawsuit, and declined to comment further on the matter.

Janquart, 61, of Crystal Lake, following the crash was put on administrative leave pending the results of the investigation, and was cited nearly four months after the crash with failing to exercise due care to avoid a collision with a pedestrian and failing to reduce speed to avoid a crash, both of which are considered petty offenses and do not carry jail time.

At a court appearance Thursday afternoon, Janquart’s attorney, Richard Capra, told the judge a major crash investigation was underway. A new date was set for Dec. 15.

The lawsuit claims Janquart was reckless and negligent in avoiding the crash and in how she operated the bus.

An autopsy report done a couple days after the crash showed Huddleston had died from multiple blunt force injuries.

Huddleston was described as “a little light of sunshine” who had the “biggest smile but also the best grumpy face” in an obituary posted on the Davenport Family Funeral Homes and Crematory website.

He enjoyed fishing, camping and hunting Big Foot in the woods, and playing at the park, the obituary states.

Huddleston had five siblings, including four older brothers and a younger sister. He was also survived by his mother and father, along with extended family.

The Huddleston family could not be reached for comment.

Reporter Amanda Marrazzo contributed this report.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

Be First to Comment

    Leave a Reply