The family of a Lee High School student killed in November’s bus crash has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit, citing the lack of seat belts on the bus.

This is the first suit to be filed from the crash. The complaint names the school bus company, Laidlaw Transit; the bus driver; and the driver of the car that was involved in the crash that filled four students. The suit was filed in Madison County Court by the family of Nicole Ford.

“The safety of children riding as passengers on school buses must be a top priority for those who are in charge of our schools and for those who own and operate school buses,” said lawyer Jere Beasley of the Montgomery-based Beasley Allen firm handling the case. “This tragic incident resulted in the loss of innocent lives.”

“Hopefully, the Alabama Legislature will take the necessary action to require all bus manufacturers to equip school buses with seat belts for passengers.”

The school bus, carrying 40 Lee students to tech school, plowed off a downtown Huntsville intestate bridge Nov. 20 and plunged 30 feet to the ground, nose first. Police say a 1990 Toyota Celica driven by a 17-year-old Lee student collided with the bus before the bus went over the retaining wall.

The bus driver, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was thrown onto the elevated roadway before the bus went airborne.

Two days after the crash, Gov. Bob Riley announced the creation of a committee to study whether school buses should have seat belts.

Riley spokesman Jeff Emerson said the panel will include state Superintendent of Education Joe Morton, Alabama Department of Transportation Director Joe McInnes and Alabama Department of Public Safety Director Chris Murphy.

The group will talk with pediatricians, bus manufactures and others before making its recommendations in time for the next legislative session in March, Emerson said.

In another development, a Huntsville lawyer has hired a private accident reconstruction team to make computer simulations of the crash. The team will map the crash site, interview survivors and study vehicle data and accident reports.

The projects will require closing part of Interstate 565 for a few hours in the next few days while the accident investigators do their work.

Mark McDaniel, whose firm represents 18 bus victims, said Colorado-based Ponderosa Associates Ltd will analyze the accident data in preparation for a lawsuit.

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