Date set for trial following fatal Iowa school bus fire

Date set for trial following fatal Iowa school bus fire
World-Herald News Service

OAKLAND, Iowa — A date has been set for a jury trial in the lawsuit against the Riverside School District after a fatal school bus fire.

Megan Klindt, 16, died in the fire along with the bus driver, Donald Hendricks, 74, on Dec. 12, 2017. The lawsuit, filed in April, names the Riverside Community School District as the defendant, but not Hendricks’ estate.

A Nov. 5, 2019, trial date was set Tuesday.

Court documents state Megan had voiced concerns about Hendricks’ ability to drive safely before the accident. Megan’s father, Glen Klindt, said he previously witnessed Hendricks fail to stop at a stop sign and nearly strike his vehicle.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report — the full report is expected later this year — stated the fire on the bus started in the engine before spreading to the passenger area. Klindt and Hendricks were found to have died of thermal injuries and smoke inhalation, according to authorities.

The bus slid into a ditch the morning of Dec. 12 after Hendricks had picked up Megan for school in front of her home. Hendricks tried to get out of the ditch when the fire started.

Megan’s mother, Natalie Klindt, ran outside to help when she saw the grass in the ditch had caught fire. Hendricks was hanging out of a window as Natalie Klindt told him to throw Megan Klindt out of the bus but Hendricks did not know where the girl was, the record states.

Bus barn supervisor Nick Bates did not call 911 after he was informed of the fire and drove to the scene with a fire extinguisher.

In May, the school district filed a response to the lawsuit denying many of its claims.

Attempts to reach school district Superintendent Tim Mitchell or the district’s attorney, Jason Craig, on Wednesday were not successful.