LHISD concludes bus driver not at fault in crash


By Kristen Meriwether

The Liberty Hill Independent School District released an internal investigation to school trustees on Monday regarding a fiery Sept. 8 accident on State Highway 29.

The findings included the police report, a field incident report and a summary from LHISD PD. The report, which was not made public, concluded that the LHISD school bus driver was not at fault.

“The official summary is in and we still conclude that our bus did not cause that accident,” Superintendent Steven Snell said at Monday’s board meeting.

The accident occurred on Sept. 8 on SH 29 as the bus driver was trying to turn left from the Lively Ranch neighborhood in an empty school bus. The bus driver turned into the center turn lane and then merged onto westbound traffic.

Snell told The Independent on Sept. 10 that a car on the outside lane stopped quickly and the car behind it rear-ended the lead vehicle. The tail vehicle, a Ford Expedition, caught fire and was destroyed, according to eyewitness photos.

Lt. Craig Gripentrog with the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office told The Independent on Sept. 10 that the bus driver, who was not named, was cited with failure to yield the right of way from a stop sign. There were no major injuries as a result of the crash, according to Gripentrog.

Snell said Tuesday he was under the impression that the officer wrote the ticket based on eye witness accounts. He said he respected the officer’s work, but felt, in his personal opinion, the ticket was unwarranted.

“The police are doing the investigation the best they can in the moment,” Snell said. “And we had the benefit of slowing down and taking our time over the next couple of weeks to figure that out. And we felt that that driver had ample time to slow down and not make contact with the vehicle in front of it.”

LHISD did not make the entire report provided to the school board available to the newspaper, citing potential pending litigation. But they did allow The Independent to view the video from six cameras on the bus and provided portions of the report.

The video, which did not include any audio, showed the driver approaching a stop sign. The driver is shown waiting for almost 15 seconds, looking both ways multiple times.

As the driver turns left, pulling into the center turn lane, the front camera shows a black pickup truck in the far right eastbound lane. A dark SUV is following the truck at a distance of 160 feet, according to the report.

As the video progresses, side cameras show the black pickup truck passing the rear of the bus, along with a smaller car in the left eastbound lane. The dark SUV is also shown passing the bus, however, the impact, which happened at the intersection, is not shown in the footage.

The report estimated the truck traveled an additional 511 feet and the SUV an additional 655 feet past the bus before impact. For context, there are 360 feet in a football field.

The bus driver, who had an immaculate driving record with the district, was not suspended following the accident. The driver did receive additional accident prevention training and continues to drive for the district.

All drivers with LHISD receive 20 hours of State-mandated School Bus Driver Safety Education Certification Training and an eight hour recertification training every three years. The district also conducts monthly safety meetings.