The widow of the bus driver who was one of four people killed in a 2016 bus crash has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the manufacturer and distributor of the tire police say caused the crash.
The lawsuit, filed in November by Alisa D. Kirkpatrick, widow of bus driver Brian Kirkpatrick, alleges failure of Zhongce Rubber Group’s tire, which was manufactured in China in 2012, according to the lawsuit filed in Chester County civil court.
“As they were traveling, suddenly and without warning, the subject tire experienced a tire separation,” the lawsuit alleges.
Zhongce Rubber Group is headquartered in China, according to court documents and the company Web site. Officials at Zhongce Rubber Group’s American office in California said no one was there who could address the lawsuit.
The bus was owned by Sandy River Baptist Church and rented by Ramah Juco Academy football team from Rock Hill. The bus, carrying 46 people, hit a guardrail and bridge on N.C. 74 bypass near Rockingham, N.C., killing four people and injuring 42.
North Carolina police said the tire failure caused the crash. Lt. Jeff Gordon, a spokesman for the N.C. Highway patrol, said in September 2016: “After a thorough and comprehensive review of the collision, investigators have determined that the cause of the collision was contributed (attributed) to tire failure.”
Many of the players were from Rock Hill and were Clinton College students. Kirkpatrick, 43, of Chester, was killed in the crash. Clinton College students Devonte Gibson, 21, of Rock Hill and Tito Hamilton, 19, of Pahokee, Fla., died. Darice Lamont Hicks Jr., 8, son of one of the coaches, also died in the crash.
The lawsuit asks for compensation for pain and suffering, loss of income, and other damages.
The most recent lawsuit in the crash is against Zhongce, formerly known as Hangzhou Rubber Company, and Tyres International, the American distributor of the tire. The lawsuit claims the tire had an “inadequate margin of safety” to prevent tread separation.
Many of the surviving players and coaches filed a lawsuit last October against Tyres International, alleging the tire was defective. In a response filed by Tyres International in that lawsuit, the company denies any responsibility or negligence. Tyres International blames “abuse, misuse, improper use, improper maintenance or repair or modification” of the tire and vehicle for the crash.
An insurance company representing Sandy River Baptist Church settled a separate lawsuit last August. That suit had been filed by people representing the riders who were killed. The settlement was for $2 million and came after federal and state officials said the bus was not properly registered for commercial use, and had not been properly inspected or maintained.