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Mother of student who died in fatal bus crash sues for $100 million

Transportation DisastersDisasters and AccidentsHighway and Road DisastersHigh SchoolsSchoolsPublic Transportation DisastersJustice System

The mother of a 17-year-old student who died when a FedEx freight truck slammed into a college-bound bus in Northern California, creating a fireball of wreckage, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit, claiming the company's vehicles have a history of catching fire.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, is the first to be filed since the April 10 collision, which occurred after the FedEx truck crossed a median. Five students from Southern California high schools and three adult chaperons bound for Humboldt State University perished in the fiery crash, as did both the drivers.

Rosa Rivera, the mother of Dorsey High School student Jennifer Bonilla -- described by friends and teachers as a bright, spunky teenager on the brink of going to college -- is seeking $100 million in general and punitive damages, said attorney A. King Aminpour.

The suit claims FedEx negligently operated its freight trucks, despite previous incidents of vehicles catching fire due to mechanical problems, driver error or improperly loaded cargo.

Some witnesses reported the FedEx truck was on fire before it hit the chartered bus.

The suit also names the estate of the FedEx driver, Timothy Paul Evans, and the bus company, Silverado Stages, as defendants in the case, claiming the bus was not equipped with enough emergency exits for escape.

Aminpour told The Times that while the family doesn’t believe the bus company was a “primary factor” in the crash, they are exploring all options until officials finish their investigation.

Investigators with the California Highway Patrol and National Transportation Safety Board have said it could be months before a cause is determined.

“It is our full intent and desire to … obtain justice for the families that have been affected by this horrific tragedy,” Aminpour said. “We hope to be able to provide answers to the families, and we hope to hold Federal Express accountable … to prevent something like this from ever happening again.”

Silverado Stages declined to comment Wednesday, and a representative for Evans’ family could not be reached.

A FedEx spokeswoman said in an email the company was not discussing litigation.

"Our heartfelt condolences remain with everyone touched by this tragic accident," Shea Leordeanu said. "We remain focused on providing support to those affected and fully cooperating with the authorities as they conduct their investigation. This is not the time for us to discuss potential litigation."

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christine.maiduc@latimes.com

Twitter: @cmaiduc

 

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