Bus-in-Power-Lines Fiasco Sends Parents to Court

     GREENSBURG, Pa. (CN) — Suing their child’s newly convicted bus driver for negligence, a Pennsylvania couple says the woman drove a school bus full of children into downed power lines, had their son try to untangle one of the wires with his bare hands, and then staged a cover-up.
     As laid out in the complaint with the Westmoreland County Supreme Court, the shocking display occurred on April 15, 2016.
     Dana Cononico and Robert Cunningham say a goose brought down power lines in Harrison City that morning, blocking their child’s bus route.
     Patricia Ryan had been driving students to Penn Middle School, according to the Sept. 7 complaint, and got the bus owned by First Student tangled up in the power lines.
     Rather than wait for help, however, Ryan allegedly asked for a student volunteer to exit the bus and untangle the wires.
     Cononico and Cunningham say their son offered to help, so Ryan let the boy off the bus and watched from her seat as he tried to pull down the wire caught on the bus’s rearview mirror with his right hand.
     T.C., as the boy is described in the complaint, yanked his hand away because the power line burned him and delivered an electrical shock.
     Cononico and Cunningham say bus driver Ryan ultimately waited until 20 minutes after T.C. got back on the bus to ask if he was OK.
     The complaint says Ryan was more concerned with keeping what happened quiet — ordering all the students on the bus to turn off their cellphones.
     “Ryan ordered all students to do so to prevent them from texting or calling others about the situation,” according the complaint.
     Cononico and Cunningham say Ryan did ask T.C. “repeatedly whether the wire was ‘live,'” proving that she understood the danger of live wires, yet failed to warn the minor or to get him immediate medical attention.
     Cononico and Cunningham say West Penn Power ultimately freed the bus from the power lines, and the police later learned later that day “that a student had exited the bus and touched a power line before crews arrived to clear the road.”
     T.C. meanwhile visited the school nurse twice — first about his burned hand, and later because he felt nauseated, the complaint states.
     Cononico and Cunningham note that Ryan, now 61,      pleaded guilty earlier this year to reckless endangerment in connection to this incident.
     She was sentenced in July to one year of probation, undergo a mental health evaluation and avoid contact with minors or children under the age of 12 who are not family members, the complaint says.
     First Student is the largest provider of school bus services in the United States. Though the company fired Ryan after T.C.’s burn, the boy’s parents say it never should have hired Ryan in the first place.
     Cononico and Cunningham note that Ryan “had previously been terminated from a similar position at a different transportation company,” and that First Student “knew or should have known that in 2009 Ryan pled guilty to driving with a suspended or revoked license.”
     The couple want damages from First Student and Ryan. They are represented by Alex Barker with Steele Schneider in Pittsburgh.
     First Student has not returned a request for comment.

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