NORMAN, Okla. -- An attorney said video will show that an Oklahoma elementary school principal was using his cellphone when he crashed a bus filled with students in Texas, injuring 27 passengers — a charge the principal has denied.
David L. Smith, an attorney representing a girl who was critically injured in the crash, asked a judge to order Norman Public Schools to release the bus video he says will prove Ty Bell was using his cellphone Sept. 29, when he lost control of the school bus, The Oklahoman reported. Bell had been driving Cleveland Elementary School students to Sea World in San Antonio.
Smith said the Texas Highway Patrol requested the video for their investigation, but that the district refused to cooperate.
"The Texas Highway Patrol suspected Ty Bell was using his cellphone at the time of the crash and caused the crash," Smith wrote in his request. "The bus in question is equipped with video which shows the actions of Ty Bell at the time of the crash. Norman Public Schools possesses this video."
Bell's attorney Tracy Schumacher called the cellphone claim "false and untrue."
"The Texas law enforcement officers investigated the use of a cellphone by Ty Bell immediately prior to and at the time of the accident. They found none," Schumacher said. "There were two adults seated directly behind Ty Bell who could have seen cellphone use. They saw none."
Norman Public Schools filed a separate motion, seeking an order to protect "the confidentiality of the video of the accident." Superintendent Nick Migliorino denied that the district had refused to hand over the video to the highway patrol.
Cleveland County District Judge Michael D. Tupper has yet to rule on the video request.
The Texas Department of Public Safety listed speed as a factor in the bus crash that injured three adults and 24 fifth-grade girls from the school in Norman. The bus hydroplaned on a wet road, rolled over and struck a fence. The DPS report said the driver took "faulty evasive action," causing him to lose control. Bell was the only person wearing a seat belt and he was not hurt in the crash. Three students and two teachers were seriously injured, according to the report.
Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com