Insurer Seeks Guidance on Splitting Damages for Mo. Bus Crash 40 Ways

November 28, 2005

A Missouri bus company’s insurance company has asked a federal judge to determine how $5 million in potential damages would be distributed to more than 40 possible people or groups involved in crash of a bush chartered by Central Bible College.

The May 20 crash near Binghamton, N.Y., killed three construction workers and forced the Springfield college to cut short a tour of the East Coast.

Up to 40 individuals or businesses have been named in the filing by Lancer Insurance Co. of Illinois, the insurance carrier for Columbia-based Show Me Coaches and its driver, Robert Smith of Ozark.

Among those named are wives of two of the three men who were killed and passengers on the bus: the 23 members of the Central Bible College choir, choir director Bonnie Jenkins and Gary Bruegman, the college’s vice president for student development, who was on the bus.

Witnesses said the bus, owned by Show Me Coaches, was speeding when it hit a motorcycle, clipped a tractor-trailer and struck a concrete mixer. The concrete mixer hit the three construction workers who were paving a bridge on the highway.

Highway workers Jonathan Randall, 32, and Wayne Bonsell, 39, both of Binghamton, and Jason Pessoni, 30, of Cincinnatus, were killed in the town of Chenango, 150 miles northwest of New York City.

The motorcyclist survived the crash; Smith was seriously injured.

Some people on the bus said that moments before the crash, Smith yelled, “I can’t stop the bus, I can’t stop the bus.”

But a preliminary investigation ruled out brake failure, New York State Police Lt. James E. Barnes said in May. New York State Police have not commented since the accident on whether mechanical failure played a role in the crash.

No criminal charges have been filed and Broome County, N.Y. Chief Assistant District Attorney Joann Rose Parry declined to comment on whether charges would be filed.

In its federal filing, Lancer Insurance said it carried a $5 million policy on the bus company and its driver. The insurance company wants to deposit the money with the court and let federal Judge Thomas J. McAvoy decide how damages should be shared among crash victims and their families.

The wife of one of the construction workers said she is bracing herself for years of legal wrangling in the civil case.

“I realize this is just the beginning,” said Linda Randall, the widow of Jonathan Randall. “It’s just hard to have to think about it.”

The Bonsell and Randall family have notified New York state that they intend to sue.

Dick Hardy, of Central Bible College, said recently that the choir, known has Heartsong, has begun performing regionally. The students plan to take their annual tour next May.

“I think they’re doing well. They’ve moved back into the fall semester, and the group is certainly up and running,” Hardy said.


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