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Jury awards $10 million in deadly bus crash

Friday, September 19, 2003

DALLAS (AP) - A jury has awarded $10 million to the parents of one of the victims of a bus crash that killed four members of a church youth group and the bus driver.

The Dallas County jury found that charter bus operator Eric Rockmore was negligent when he hired Ernest Carter as a last-minute substitute driver on June 24, 2002. Jurors concluded in making the award to Debbie and Dennis Kimmons that Carter's hiring contributed to the death of 16-year-old Lindsay Kimmons.

Less than an hour after the bus left the church parking lot, it careened into a highway pillar near Terrell, killing Lindsay Kimmons, 12-year-old Michael Freeman, 14-year-old Michelle Chaney, 13-year-old Amanda Maxwell and Carter.

Rockmore had no comment on Thursday's verdict, which could be appealed.

It is unlikely the Kimmonses will collect $10 million, but Lindsay's parents said the decision gave them some peace about who was responsible for their daughter's death, The Dallas Morning News reported in its Friday editions.

"It just confirms all the questions I had," said Debbie Kimmons. "I wanted to know when I first came to the attorneys (everything) from the time that bus left to the time it crashed. I wanted to know everything and who was accountable."

Whether Rockmore's company was insured for $5 million at the time of the crash is in dispute in another court. Rockmore has insisted he was insured; his insurance carrier argues that the policy had lapsed. Even if he is insured, the most the Kimmonses would be able to get from Rockmore is probably the $5 million.

Metro Church of Garland had contracted with another bus company, Green's Transportation, to provide two buses for the church. When only one arrived, Green's contacted Rockmore, who operated Discovery Tours of Texas, and subcontracted with Discovery to provide a substitute bus.

Carter was hired by Rockmore to drive the Discovery bus. Testimony showed Carter had been up most of the night before and had just come back from another trip.

Last month, most of the parties who were injured and killed agreed to a $6.1 million settlement with Metro Church and Green's Transportation.

The Kimmons family was included in that settlement and was to receive $800,000 from it, said the family's attorney, Wes Holmes.

Testimony showed Carter had a questionable driving record and a forged medical certificate that indicated he was fit to drive.

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