Kuna bus driver involved in fatal wreck remains on leave

District officials will wait to decide whether to reinstate Debra Boatwright.

jsowell@idahostatesman.comJanuary 16, 2014 

A damaged Kuna School District bus at the scene of a fatal crash in Canyon County on Thursday morning, Dec. 5 2013.

DARIN OSWALD — doswald@idahostatesman.com

Debra Boatwright, 56, was relieved of her duties as a bus driver for the Kuna School District after the Dec. 5 wreck that led to the death of sixth-grader Daniel Cook, 11.

Boatwright's status was unclear earlier this week, when a crash report was filed stating that she failed to yield to a dump truck headed north on Happy Valley Road. Boatwright had stopped at a stop sign on Deer Flat Road, investigators concluded, but then pulled out in front of the truck driven by Charles Samuel Derby, 33. Derby was not required to stop at the intersection.

The Kuna School District issued a written statement Thursday clarifying Boatwright's status and saying she will remain on leave until after the crash investigation is completed.

The relieving of Boatwright — who has driven a bus for the Kuna district since 2007 — from her bus duties was standard district procedure because of the severity of the crash, said Melanie DeLashmutt, the Kuna district's human resources director and district spokeswoman.

The crash report was submitted Monday to the Idaho Transportation Department by the Idaho State Police. Canyon County Prosecuting Attorney Bryan Taylor is waiting for the results of blood tests taken by Boatwright and Derby, possibly in the next couple of weeks, before deciding to charge either or both drivers.

The crash report indicates that Derby may have used marijuana but does not say whether investigators believe he was under the influence of the drug that morning. No contributing factor other than Boatwright's failure to yield was listed in the report.

The report said Derby steered to the right, onto the shoulder of the road, as the bus advanced from his left. Then he came back on to the road. The front of the 1974 Mack truck struck the back right portion of the bus.

Boatwright lost control of the 1998 Blue Bird bus and spun around. The left rear wheel of the bus struck a stop sign and street sign on the northeast corner of the intersection before stopping, the report said.

Boatwright, contacted Thursday afternoon by telephone, declined to comment. Derby did not return a call.

The crash report and charging decision will be reviewed by DeLashmutt's office and a district leadership team before district officials decide whether to allow her to resume her job. The district operates its own buses and drivers are considered classified employees, DeLashmutt said.

Students and staff members at Crimson Point Elementary School, attended by Daniel and four other students who were hurt in the wreck and hospitalized, are continuing to recover from Daniel's loss, DeLashmutt said. Twelve students between the ages of 5 and 11 were riding the bus to school that morning.

"Everyone is still grieving and trying to sort through their emotions," she said. "We have good days and bad days."

The students for the most part have shown "great resilience," DeLashmutt said.

"The Kuna School District is devastated by the loss of student Daniel Cook and our deepest sympathies go out to the Cook family. The district continues to be concerned for students injured or impacted by the accident, for the bus driver, and of their families," the district said in its statement.

John Sowell: 377-6423, Twitter: @IDS_Sowell

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