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Teacher in Hays CISD bus crash sues truck driver, company for 'depraved gross negligence'

The teacher aide sustained severe injuries from the crash, including at least four broken bones in her back. Michael Minasi/KUT News
Michael Minasi/KUT News
The teacher aide sustained severe injuries from the crash, including at least four broken bones in her back. Michael Minasi/KUT News

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A pre-K teacher aide who was seriously injured after a concrete truck crashed into a Hays CISD school bus in Bastrop last month has filed a lawsuit against the truck company F.J.M. Concrete and the driver Jerry Hernandez.

Deborah Serna and her husband are seeking over $1 million to cover medical care expenses, loss of earnings and other damages they have incurred since the crash.

The Tom Green Elementary School bus was returning from a field trip to a zoo in Bastrop County when the crash happened. The bus was heading west on SH 21 when the concrete truck veered into its lane and hit the front of the bus, forcing it to roll over. The bus was carrying 44 pre-K students and 11 adult chaperones, including Serna.

Serna was severely injured in the crash, with at least four broken bones in her back and multiple other serious injuries. She will be out of the classroom for quite some time to allow her body to heal, according to the lawsuit.

“This is one of the worst cases of negligent hiring, retention and training I've ever seen,” said Sean Breen, the attorney representing Serna. “F.J.M. Concrete employed, in a patently absurd and dangerous way, a gentleman who had no business being behind the wheel of a large truck.”

Five-year-old Ulises Rodriguez Montoya, a student at Tom Green Elementary in Hays County, died in the crash. Ryan Wallace, 33, who was driving a car behind the bus, was also killed.

Hernandez, who was arrested and charged with criminally negligent homicide, admitted to DPS investigators that he had smoked marijuana the night before the crash, got only three hours of sleep and used cocaine before going to work.

Court documents also show Hernandez had at least three prior instances of testing positive for illegal drug use and being treated by a substance abuse professional.

The lawsuit claims that because the owner of the concrete trucking company knew about Hernandez's history and allowed him to continue to drive, they were also liable.

“This case is a textbook example of how evil, depraved gross negligence can wreak havoc and destruction on the best and most innocent in our world,” the lawsuit states. “The level of negligence and gross negligence by the defendants in this case truly shocks the conscience. Impaired on drugs, unfit to drive, and equipped with a deadly multi-ton vehicle that became a weapon, defendant Jerry Hernandez turned a fun field trip for pre-k students into a life taking, life shattering explosion of terror and mayhem when he smashed his truck into a bus full of innocent, unsuspecting people.”

Breen said that Serna's injuries not only entitle her to compensation, but also call attention to the safety issues around trucking companies and drivers.

“If these companies are employing truck drivers who have no business on our roads,” Breen said, "then the companies that do business with these people should also be held accountable if they are not checking to make sure these drivers are safe.”

The crash is still under investigation by DPS. The National Transportation Safety Board has also opened an incident investigation into the deadly crash.

Attempts to reach Hernandez’s attorney were not returned.

Hays CISD is aware of the lawsuit. School district officials said the district and the entire community stand with the victims in the bus crash.

"The district further concurs with the sentiment captured in the lawsuit’s description that this crash has wreaked havoc and destruction, and the allegations of the level of negligence 'truly shocks the conscience,'" said Tim Savoy, a spokesperson with the district.

"This will be the first of many actions to come," he said. "This crash is a life-taking and life-changing catastrophe; and it is the district’s fervent hope that all of the victims can be made as whole as possible through both the criminal and civil processes that are unfolding."

Copyright 2024 KUT News. To see more, visit KUT News.

Luz Moreno-Lozano