POTTAWATTAMIE COUNTY, Iowa (WOWT) — The district that employed the driver of a school bus that caught fire in December 2017, killing him and the teen girl who tried to save him, agreed to pay $4.8 million to her family rather than go to trial in March.
According to the settlement agreement obtained by 6 News, the money will come from two different insurance policies held by the Riverside Community School District, though as part of the agreement, the district does not have to admit to any wrongdoing.
The family released a statement Thursday responding to the settlement of their lawsuit against the district.
Megan Klindt, 16, and Donald Hendricks, the 74-year-old school bus driver she tried to save, were killed in the Dec. 12, 2017, fire. Her parents, Glen and Natalie Klindt, filed the lawsuit against the Riverside Community School District in April 2018 in Pottawattamie County.
The terms of the settlement, announced by the school district — which admitted no wrongdoing — in January, remain confidential.
"Megan's family... will continue to be haunted by the knowledge that her death could have easily been prevented if the numerous documented complaints and concerns of Riverside parents had been heeded by the school superintendent and transportation supervisor," the statement says.
The fire happened in the Klindt's driveway shortly after Megan was picked up for school. The NTSB determined Hendricks backed the bus into a ditch and became stuck. The turbocharger in the engine overheated, and the bus wasn't equipped with a fire-suppression system, which would have bought them more time to escape, according to NTSB investigators.
The lawsuit documented complaints made about Hendricks’ driving — warnings that questioned whether he was fit to be a driver for the district. It also didn't help that the driver had trouble walking; the NTSB questioned whether he could even help kids in an emergency.
In Thursday's statement, the family says they are glad to see the National Transportation Safety Board adopt additional safety standards and protocol in light of the accident.
"(We) hope that no other family ever has to know the pain they feel in losing a child in such a tragic and senseless way," the statement says.
Last June, the National Transportation Safety Board investigation concluded that the school district should be held accountable for the incident because the principal and the district's transportation supervisor knew about the driver's medical condition but didn't ask for an exam.
FULL TEXT: Family statement
After two years of litigation, the family of Megan Klindt has reached a settlement with the Riverside Community School District which resolves all claims against the district. A jury trial was scheduled to begin in Pottawattamie County District Court March 3, 2020. The terms of the settlement are confidential.
No amount of money will ever bring Megan back. Megan’s family, as well as numerous witnesses and other community members, will continue to be haunted by the knowledge that her death could have easily been prevented if the numerous documented complaints and concerns of Riverside parents had been heeded by the school superintendent and transportation supervisor.
Glen and Natalie Klindt have taken some small comfort in bringing important safety and oversight issues to light, and in seeing additional new safety standards and protocols adopted by the National Transportation Safety Board. They hope that no other family ever has to know the pain they feel in losing a child in such a tragic and senseless way.