March 28, 2000
A bus, whose driver ignored the laws regarding train crossings, is hit by a CSX freight train
Three children were killed either instantaneously or as a result of their injuries, and three others (including the driver’s daughter) were critically injured. Only one child aboard the bus was able to walk away uninjured, a girl who had recently moved to the area, had only ridden the bus once before, and who had buckled herself into one of the bus’s few seatbelts.
At trial, the uninjured child testified the driver, Rhonda Cloer, had not stopping at the crossing the day before, either, and stated she could not hear the train’s blaring horn as it approached as the driver’s radio was too loud. The bus held a security camera system with VHS tapes, and several days’ worth of footage backed up the child’s statements: every tape featured the excessively loud radio, Cloer was recorded passing through the crossing without pausing 8 times, and the driver stopped at the crossing twice when cars were present behind the bus. Train employees also reported having a near-miss with the same driver before the fatal crash.
Cloer pleaded guilty to three counts of criminally negligent homicide, and four counts of reckless aggravated assault and, despite desperate pleas from the parents of the victims, was sentenced to 4 years in prison and was released after 90 days in jail with 4 years probation for good behavior.