LAGUNA NIGUEL : Claim Filed in Death of Boy Leaving Bus

Parents of a 7-year-old killed by a pickup truck April 22 after he got off a school bus filed a claim with the Capistrano Unified School District Tuesday for at least $10 million in damages.

The family of Thomas E. Lanni charged in the claim, which must be filed and rejected before any civil lawsuit can be brought, that the bus driver acted improperly by neither flashing his lights nor escorting the first-grader across Aliso Niguel at El Pilar.

"If there was a way I could trade all of this to have my son back, I would do it in a heartbeat, but I can't," said Thomas W. Lanni, the boy's father. "It's very frustrating that the lights are still not being turned on, and it seems like no one cares."

In a brief, prepared statement, the school district said it "disputes many of the allegations being made (in the claim) concerning the sequence of events surrounding this unfortunate accident." The district has 45 days to respond.

School board officials said the reason flashers were not used was that the driver believed all six students who got off at the stop lived on the same side of Aliso Niguel. Later, school officials said, it was learned that four of the six lived on the other side.

Thomas, who had just moved with his family from New York, had been riding the bus for the first time. He mistakenly got off one stop before where his mother was waiting for him.

The Lannis' attorney, Steven R. Young, said the family and neighborhood residents plan to attend a scheduled school board meeting Monday night to urge it to require bus drivers to turn on their flashing lights when they stop.

"At this point we're just trying to get (the board's) attention," Young said. "We'd like to see the lights on, plain and simple."

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