The parents of six-year-old Hunter Pitt, who died after being run over by a school bus last year in Missouri, have filed a filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the school district.
Hunter was in kindergarten at Williamsburg K-8 when a school bus driven by Willie Leonberger ran over him moments after he exited the bus and crossed the street to walk home. The front of the bus knocked the child to the ground and the bus ran over him with the rear tire striking the boy’s head.
Leonberger, 78, pleaded guilty to second-degree involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced in January to four years in prison; the judge then suspended the prison term in lieu of five years of probation. Leonberger was also barred from driving.
The lawsuit names the Callaway School District, Superintendent Bryan Thomsen and former Director of Transportation Richard Gathright. The parents, Matthew Pitt and Kimberly Yancey, are seeking $2.5 million each, representing the liability limits of the defendants’ insurance policy.
Joshua Myers, attorney for the plaintiffs, alleges Leonberger waited only 4.4 seconds before moving the bus forward. Myers said, "I think Mr. Leonberger's actions here were not only the result of his own negligence but also just a lack of the school instilling and continuing to reinforce the safety rules that are out there." Myers added, "After the initial investigation and review of a lot of training documents and videotapes from inside the bus, it became pretty clear this wasn't just an isolated incident. It was a top-down failure of the bus safety program."