New lawsuits from the 2016 fatal bus crash of a football team from Rock Hill filed by survivors of the crash and the widow of the bus driver allege tire failure through improper maintenance of the bus.
One lawsuit was filed in November and amended in mid-January by Alisha Kirkpatrick, widow of bus driver Brian Kirkpatrick, who died in the crash along with three other people. A separate lawsuit by more than 30 survivors of the crash was filed last week .
Both lawsuits claim that the bus had been worked on with a tire rotation and balancing just nine days before the crash near Rockingham, N.C. in September 2016. The bus hit a guardrail and bridge on N.C. 74 bypass near Rockingham, N.C., killing four people and injuring 42. North Carolina state police said after the crash tire failure was the cause.
The lawsuits, both filed in Chester County civil court, also allege the bus was inspected in July 2016 by a company that did federal agency inspections for commercial vehicles.
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Each lawsuit claims an inspection company and company that inspected the bus “failed” to inspect or warn about the tire, and failed to “remove the defective tire from service.”
The bus was owned by Sandy River Baptist Church of Chester and rented by the Ramah Juco Academy football team from Rock Hill. Many of the players were from Rock Hill and were Clinton College students.
Kirkpatrick, 43, of Chester, the driver, 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.
An insurance company representing Sandy River Baptist Church, the owner of the bus, settled a separate lawsuit filed by survivors of the crash in August. 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 for that commercial use.
Alisha Kirpatrick has named tire maker Zhongce Rubber Co. and three tire importers and distributors: Tyres International; Tireco Inc.; and Unicorn Tire; as defendants in the lawsuit claiming the tread separated on the tire made in China. Those companies have not yet filed court responses to either of the lawsuits.
The survivors of the crash filed a separate lawsuit last week after filing two other lawsuits last year against the church and the tire distributor and others that now name the tire maker as a defendant. David Manzi, lawyer for those survivors, said Tuesday those lawsuits likely will be consolidated.
Both lawsuits also allege negligence by three companies involved in the selling and installation, maintenance, and inspection of the bus.
The suits name a Lexington company, Ken’s Repair Service, that allegedly inspected the bus and tires in July under the Federal Motor Carrier safety regulations. Officials with Ken’s Repair Service were not available Tuesday for comment.
The suits also allege Land’s Tire in Chester that sold the tire and installed it. Land’s officials declined comment.
The suits also make negligence claims against B&B Tire of Rock Hill, the shop that allegedly balanced and rotated the tires on Sept. 8, 2016 – nine days before the crash. Officials at B&B could not be reached for comment.