The widow of a bus driver who died in a collision with a tractor-trailer near Casper, Wyo., has settled her lawsuit against the trucking company. The settlement came about a month before the case was scheduled to go to trial. The suit was filed against Darren Nelson Trucking and its driver, Steven Burson, for the wrongful death of the bus driver, Donald Bonner. He died when his Arrow Stage Lines bus struck a tractor-trailer that had overturned on Interstate 25. Twenty-nine passengers on the bus were injured in the crash.
The lawsuit accused Burson of failing to use flares or emergency triangles to warn drivers that his truck was partially blocking the highway. It also claimed Darren Nelson Trucking hired Burson with knowledge that he had a bad driving record, with multiple traffic citations in his past. Lawyers for the Defendants claimed Burson wasn’t able to set flares or emergency triangles because he was still trapped in the tractor trailer. They also denied the trucking company was negligent in training and supervising its driver.
The crash occurred early on Dec. 5, 2009. According to allegations in the lawsuit, Burson had been driving for 11 hours straight when he lost control of his tractor-trailer. The unit came to rest on its side, partially blocking the northbound lanes of the highway. Burson told Wyoming Highway Patrol troopers that he had veered to the left to avoid deer on the highway. But two troopers walked the area, and failed to find any tracks in the snow. The Arrow bus collided with the tractor-trailer a short time after the first crash. The bus driver, Bonner, 61, was killed instantly.
Bonner’s widow, Debra, filed the lawsuit in a Wyoming federal court. Several passengers have also filed lawsuits. Some of the passengers expressed concern that Bonner was driving too fast for the road conditions and appeared distracted during the drive. Although the morning was clear, the highway was icy in spots. One passenger told investigators he had approached Bonner with his concerns and was warned to go back to his seat or be kicked off the bus. In November, four passengers settled claims in their lawsuit filed against both Arrow and Darren Nelson Trucking. The cases of three other passengers are still pending. A trial in that case is set for March. Darren Nelson Trucking is no longer in business.
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