Colorado School Bus Accident Kills Driver, Injures Students

A Colorado school bus accident resulted in the death of the bus driver and serious injuries to some passengers. The school bus was carrying members of the Legacy High School football team, according to reports, when it crashed into a concrete pillar at Denver International Airport shortly after picking up team members.

 Victims of the Colorado School Bus Accident Identified 

At the time of the Colorado school bus accident, the bus was carrying 28 students and three coaches who had arrived in Denver following a game in California. The four adults on the bus were all at the front of the vehicle, which is where the impact of the bus crash was felt most.

  • According to School Transportation News, the driver of the bus was Kari Chopper, who had been a school bus driver for Adams 12 Five Star Schools for four years. Although the airbags deployed, Chopper died of blunt force injuries. A GoFundMe page has been started to help Chopper's family. Chopper is survived by a husband, four children and one grandchild.
  • Wayne Voorhees, Matt Kroupa and Kyle Rider—all coaches with the football team—suffered significant injuries and were treated in local hospital, according to the school district.
  • All 15 football players who were injured in the accident were released from local hospitals shortly after the bus crash.

The Denver Police Department is investigating the Colorado school bus accident, which reportedly occurred after the bus driver circled the bus around to return to the airport for reasons that are not yet clear. After circling back to the airport, the bus moved off the road and crashed into a concrete pillar. Two other buses from the school district were also at the airport to pick up students, but were not involved in the crash.

Investigators are looking into the possibility of mechanical issues with the bus and are considering other possible causes for the crash, including whether the bus driver suffered from health problems. Reports indicate Chopper had passed her routine physical on May 10, 2016.

School District Offers Support to Students Affected by Colorado School Bus Accident 

Following news of the Colorado school bus accident, the school district noted that crisis response teams would be available to support staff and students at both Legacy High School and the district transportation center. Athletes involved in the accident were being monitored and had to be cleared before allowed to play in an upcoming game.

A letter from Superintendent Chris Gdowski thanked the community for its support of the district, staff and students.

"While we have 50-plus schools in our district, the relationships between staff, students and parents extend beyond school walls," Gdowski wrote. "We collectively offer our condolences to the family of Kari Chopper, the bus driver who died in yesterday's accident. The family and our transportation staff need your continued thoughts and prayers during this difficult time."

NHTSA Tracks School Bus Crashes 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) records school bus accidents. Of all fatal motor vehicle crashes from 2003 to 2012, 0.35% were considered by the NHTSA to be school-transportation-related. During that same time, 174 school-age children died in school-transportation-related crashes. Of those, 55 children were in the vehicle involved in the crash while 119 were outside the vehicle.

In 2015, Mark Rosekind, NHTSA administrator, noted in remarks to the National Association for Pupil Transportation that the NHTSA was changing its position and recommending that every child on a school bus have a three-point seat belt.

"The position of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is that seat belts save lives," Rosekind said. "That is true whether in a passenger car or in a big yellow bus. And saving lives is what we are about."

It is not clear whether the vehicle involved in the Colorado school bus accident had seat belts, but Colorado is not one of the five states that currently require seat belts on newer school buses. Those states—California, New York, Texas, Florida, and New Jersey—require all new school buses to have some form of seat belt, though not necessarily a three-point seat belt. Some districts in Colorado say they are looking into seat belts on school buses to protect students, even without the state making it a requirement.

In the same address, Rosekind noted the NHTSA would launch research projects to improve data regarding school bus safety, examine ways to make seat belts available to all students and reach out to the six states that already have laws requiring seat belts on buses to find out how they have overcome financial obstacles to installing seat belts on all buses.

 Contact a School Bus Accident Attorney 

The law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman has represented children injured in school bus accidents. If you or a loved one has been harmed in a school bus accident, contact one of our attorneys at 800-827-0087 for a no-obligation consultation to discuss your options.