C-Tran to pay $2 million settlement to family of boy on bike kil - KPTV - FOX 12

C-Tran to pay $2 million settlement to family of boy on bike killed in bus crash

Posted: Updated: Aug 31, 2015 07:26 PM
File image, April 2012 File image, April 2012
Benjamin Fulwiler, photo provided by family attorney Benjamin Fulwiler, photo provided by family attorney
VANCOUVER, WA (KPTV) -

Nearly three years after a bus driver was cleared of criminal charges for a crash that killed an 11-year-old boy on a bicycle, C-Tran settled a lawsuit with the family for $2 million.

A settlement agreement signed on Aug. 15 was released to FOX 12 on Monday by the attorney for the estate of Benjamin Fulwiler.

Fulwiler was riding his bike at the intersection of 27th and Main Street the afternoon of Saturday, April 28, 2012.

Investigators at the time said a C-Tran bus driven by Debra Knox approached 27th Avenue to make a left-hand turn from Main Street when Fulwiler collided with the side of the bus and was pulled under it.

His arm was severed in the crash and he died hours later at the hospital.

Benjamin's mother Jennifer Kanna said that she is still deep in grief over the loss of her son, who she described as smart, generous and curious about the world.

"It consumes me every day that he’s not here. I notice it every day," she said. "He was my son, but he was becoming my friend."

In January 2013, police concluded their investigation by saying Knox was driving in "a normal fashion" at the time of the crash and no criminal charges were filed by prosecutors.

However, Ken Friedman, the Fulwiler family's attorney, alleges the boy was in the crosswalk at the time of the crash and Knox had an unobstructed view toward him well before impact.

"The inaccuracies and misstatements in the Vancouver Police report have been shocking," Friedman wrote in a release sent to FOX 12, while also referring to the police report as "biased and inaccurate."

Friedman released an internal email between C-Tran officials following the deadly crash that was presented as evidence in this case. It states, "The police department will no longer extend a 'professional courtesy' to C-Tran operators observed breaking traffic laws. This change in philosophy is not focused on C-Tran but all public employees and includes school bus drivers, county and city work crews, utility workers, etc. Apparently, they have received complaints from a number of sources about this practice."

However, a Vancouver Police Department spokeswoman said Monday, "We don't have any professional courtesy to exclude anyone, a business, a person, anything." She said while the bus driver was not charged in this case, C-Tran drivers have been cited in the past for driving infractions. 

C-Tran Public Affairs Director Scott Patterson told Fox 12 Monday that C-Tran trains and expects all of its drivers to follow all traffic laws, and "categorically denies" that there is now or ever was a policy allowing for C-Tran drivers to violate driving laws.

Patterson also noted that Debra Knox was no longer employed by C-Tran, and that while the organization still does not claim responsibility in the accident, they followed the advice of their insurer to settle, issuing the following statement:

On Thursday, August 6, 2015, in Seattle, a mediation session was held between the Washington State Transit Insurance Pool (WSTIP), C-TRAN's insurer, and attorneys representing the family of Ben Fulwiler. Tragically, in 2012, Ben died after riding his bicycle into the side of and then being run over by a C-TRAN bus making a left turn.  

The case has been settled for $2 million. As an agency, C-TRAN continues to believe that the responsibility for this tragic incident does not rest on C-TRAN, but we respect WSTIP's judgment that litigation is unpredictable. We now look forward to helping bring closure to the Fulwiler family, the former C-TRAN Bus Operator, and other employees who have all suffered ever since that terrible day in April of 2012

Kanna and Shaun Harris, her fiance, contend that the policy did exist, and that it led to Ben's death.

"Many other facts that have been gathered about this shows that not only was he not the boy that ran into the bus, he’s the boy that died because policy seems to have not discouraged hazardous or risk taking driving," Harris said. "That’s what needs to change."

As part of the settlement agreement, C-Tran will "put forth a best effort" to provide a public memorial for Fulwiler. He was a student at Pacific Middle School. Fulwiler's family and their supporters have started a memorial page for Ben on Facebook.

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