Iowa family files lawsuit against Riverside School District after daughter dies in bus fire

Published: Apr. 18, 2018 at 2:50 PM CDT
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The parents of a 16-year-old western Iowa girl who died in a school bus fire in December of 2017 are suing the Riverside School District.

Glen and Natalie Klindt filed the lawsuit Wednesday in Pottawattamie County. Their daughter Megan Klindt, along with a school bus driver 74-year-old Donald Hendricks, were killed in the December 12th fire.

The lawsuit claims Megan had complained about Hendricks’ driving previously, including driving on unsafe roads that were not part of the bus route. Glen Klindt also said on at least one occasion he witnessed Hendricks fail to stop at a stop sign and nearly collide with his vehicle.

Hendricks’ physical condition was also referenced in the lawsuit, “Donald Hendricks relied on a walker and/or cane in order to ambulate in the days preceding the events giving rise to this litigation.”

The Klindts are claiming Hendricks and the Riverside School District were negligent in the case, resulting in the wrongful death of their daughter.

The fire happened on the road in front of the Klindts’ rural residence when Hendricks backed out of the driveway and into a ditch on the morning of December 12th, 2017. The National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report shows the fire started in the engine compartment and spread to the passenger area. Investigators say the rear wheels dropped into a three-foot ditch. Hendricks tried to pull it out, but the wheels lost traction.

The lawsuit says Hendricks radioed the bus barn when the fire started and the brother of Glen Klindt, Riverside School District bus driver Bernard Klindt, called Natalie Klindt to let them know there was a fire on the bus. She ran outside to help and saw the grass in the ditch had caught fire. She ran to the driver’s side of the bus where Hendricks was hanging out a window and asked where her daughter was and to throw her out of the bus – but Hendricks didn’t know.

Natalie Klindt called 911 while running back to the house to get something to break out the bus’s windows. She called for help from her other daughter and they tried to break the windows of the bus but were unsuccessful.

The lawsuit claims the bus barn supervisor Nick Bates did not call 911 after learning about the fire, and instead drove to the Klindts’ address with a fire extinguisher.

Natalie Klindt again called 911 but firefighters arrived too late to save her. An autopsy determined she died of smoke and soot inhalation and thermal injuries.

The Klindts are asking the case be heard by a jury.