Bus Crash Victim's Family Settles For $5.5 Million
The victim's mother, Linda Plamondon, was disappointed with the plea deal and told the judge "justice is not being served."
"It was a momentary diversion from what he should have been doing," Judge Solomon said at the sentencing. "Save the maximum sentence for somebody who deserves it."
After the sentencing, Walsh said, Plamondon's parents brought the lawsuit against the state, in part, to try to prevent another similar incident from happening. "The Plamondons believe the death of their son was preventable," said Walsh. "During the lawsuit, the Plamondons repeatedly petitioned UConn to take steps to improve pedestrian safety and to stop using students as bus drivers."
Walsh said so far UConn has resisted these efforts and that it is one of the relatively few universities that continues to use student bus drivers. Walsh said the parents again raised the issue during settlement discussions but the university would not budge on that point.
Jeffrey C. Pingpank, of Cooney, Scully and Dowling in Hartford, represented the state in the lawsuit. Pingpank did not return calls seeking comment for this article.
UConn spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said that all UConn bus drivers undergo the same licensing and training requirements as school bus, coach bus and tractor-trailer drivers around the state. She added that UConn student drivers "go through an ongoing process of evaluation and supervision throughout their time on the job."
According to Reitz, about 65 of UConn's 80 drivers are students.
Following Plamondon's death, the university implemented a "Safe Turn Alert" system on its buses. They system provides audible warnings to drivers and pedestrians when a bus is about to turn. It was introduced in the spring of 2011, and "was not yet available for installation on UConn buses at the time of David Plamondon's death," according to Reitz.
Walsh, however, said "college kids are college kids," no matter how much driver training they might received.
"A lot of times they're sleep deprived and if they're 18 to 22 years old, they've only been driving a few years," said Walsh. "You have a young, inexperienced student [driver] subject to distractions. It's not the right dynamic… [The Plamondons] were disappointed UConn didn't abolish the student bus driver program."