Bus that struck, killed Callaway County boy failed to wait long enough, patrol says

Friday, May 20, 2011 | 9:52 a.m. CDT

FULTON — A Missouri State Highway Patrol investigation into the death of a 6-year-old struck by a school bus has concluded that the driver failed to wait long enough after dropping the boy off at his stop.

The patrol's report said there was no evidence that the bus driver's vision was obstructed or that there were any mechanical issues with the North Callaway County School District bus on the January day that Hunter Pitt, of Williamsburg, was struck after getting off the bus.

Rather, The Fulton Sun reported, the investigation concluded the driver failed to account for both students he unloaded before pulling away and striking Hunter as he was crossing the road.

The report says the driver, Willie Leonberger, 77, of Auxvasse, stopped the bus for 4.4 seconds. During that time, Hunter would have had to travel down the bus stairs, turn and move past the crossing arm and the front of the bus — a distance of 24 feet — in order to be clear of the bus. The boy would have needed 5.7 seconds to walk from the bus to a location out of the vehicle's path, not accounting for any extra time needed to negotiate the bus stairs or any lessened time if the boy had been running, the patrol report said.

Leonberger declined to comment to the newspaper.

Callaway County Prosecuting Attorney Chris Wilson said his office is reviewing the case.

North Callaway Superintendent Brian Thomsen said the district is unable to comment on the investigation or the report.

"That's still not resolved, and we've been advised (by legal counsel) not to say anything," Thomsen said. "Our prayers go out to everyone involved, and that's all I can say."

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