One year later: What's changed since deadly HISD bus crash?

On September 15, 2015, two students were killed. The two others who survived are still haunted by the crash.

One year ago, an H.I.S.D. school bus flew off a bridge on Loop 610 and crashed.

On Sept. 15, 2015, two students were killed. The two others who survived are still haunted by the crash.

"It's hard because they're not hear anymore," said Lakeisha Williams, who survived the bus crash.

Two students, Mariya Johnson and Janecia Chatman, died. However, Chatman's cousins, these twins, survived.

"It's been the roughest year of my life," Williams said.

We first met the Williams twins at Texas Children's Hospital.

"Don't take your life for granted," said Brandon Williams, the other twin.

"Because in an instant your life could be cut short," LaKeisha said.

They were on an H.I.S.D. school bus that morning, heading to Furr High School, when another driver hit them. There were lap belts on the bus, but the students weren't wearing them.

"They didn't make even make it mandatory for anyone to wear seat belts," LaKeisha said.

Since then, a lot has changed. School board members voted this summer to put it in writing. They changed the code of student conduct to require students to wear seat belts.

"I guess they learn from their mistakes," Brandon said.

However, not all school buses have seat belts. There are 1,163 buses in H.I.S.D.'s fleet. Before the crash, the district had 90 buses with three-point seat belts. This fall, it purchased 63 more, but still half of the buses, 580, don't have any belts at all.

"The kids gonna be back in the same shape they did before, they gonna be riding around on unsafe buses," said Wretha Thomas, President of the Bus Drivers' Union.

She's called on H.I.S.D. to put seat belts in all buses for years. However, the district is strapped for cash. On top of that, the state, who provided $12 million in funding last year, this year is providing none.

"I'm pleading to the state and H.I.S.D., y'all work together and get these buses safer for our children," Thomas said.

The buses that actually have these three-point seat belts have reminders to wear them on the windows and on the seat backs.

"Make the right decision, you know, because your life could be gone in an instant," Brandon said.

The twins hope what they survived will be a wake-up call for the district. They want it to invest in seat belts, to protect kids on what's supposed to be the safest way to get to school.

"If they wear them, it could save their life,” LaKeisha said. “You never know if something like this is going to happen again.”

Our KHOU team researched policies form 15 districts in the area and found all had the same policy requiring seat belts on buses purchased after 2010, but only if the state funds that requirement.

In fact, the legislator passed a law in 2007 requiring seat belts on buses bought after 2010 and offered grants for the program. The grants only covered the cost of the seat belts, not the entire new bus, so only four districts applied and received money for the program. Those districts were Austin I.S.D., Pettus I.S.D., South Texas I.S.D. and Dallas County Schools, according to the Texas State Teachers Association.

Here’s the districts that we pulled policies for:

Aldine

Alief

Crosby

Katy

Klein

Waller

Channelview

Clear Creek

Cypress-Fairbanks

Deer Park 

Humble

Tomball

Spring

LaPorte

Pasadena

(© 2016 KHOU)


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