More than two years after a charter bus carrying members of the University of Washington marching band rolled onto its side on an icy stretch of Interstate 90, a King County Superior Court jury awarded four students injured in the crash more than $1.4 million Thursday.
The crash, which occurred on Thanksgiving Day 2018 outside George in Grant County, sent 47 students – out of 56 people on board – to hospitals for evaluation.
The four band members seeking damages in the civil case included Alexia Brown, Jacob Koreen, Monica Mursch and Edith Myers-Power. They were represented by Herrmann Law Group.
The defendants were Nancy Aguilar, the bus driver, and MTR Western, the bus company hired by the UW.
“My clients are happy. They feel vindicated to the extent that we always viewed this as a far more serious crash than MTR did,” said Anthony Marsh, one of the lawyers who represented the four students. “What most of the kids actually experienced was truly horrific, comparable to what you’d see in a war zone.”
MTR Western’s president, Jeremy Butzlaff, said Friday, “This was a tragic accident on all accounts, our hearts go to those who were affected by this event. Then, as now, we remain steadfast in our commitment to safety, and we wish these students all the very best.”
The case has been in litigation for almost two-and-a-half years, said Crystal Lloyd, co-counsel for the plaintiffs.
The charter bus in the wreck was one of six in a fleet carrying marching band members and spirit squads to the Apple Cup game in Pullman against Washington State.
Road conditions at the time of the crash were icy and slushy and that the driver of the bus, Aguilar, was cited for driving too fast for conditions, according to the Washington State Patrol.
“The more we drove, the worse the weather got,” Koreen, one of the plaintiffs, said about the day of the wreck. Now a UW graduate with a degree in marketing, Koreen said he finished out that marching-band season by performing in the January 2019 Rose Bowl. But he didn’t return to marching band the following year.
For part of Koreen’s testimony in the case, he wrote a song about the crash and played a recording of it to the jury.
“A lot of people don’t remember all of the details of the crash itself,” said Lloyd. “They were knocked unconscious, that sort of thing. He (Koreen) remembers everything. He pulled himself out of the bus and tried to assist the best he could.”
Brown, who received the largest award of the four – $569,000 – was a freshman alto saxophone player on her first trip to the Apple Cup.
Brown was tossed out of the rolling bus and woke up tangled in barbed-wire, according to her lawyers. She suffered multiple fractures to her spine and PTSD, according to her lawyers. She never marched for the UW band again.
The case is believed to be the first involving the bus crash to go to a jury, Marsh said. Several other crash victims have settled cases with the charter-bus operator under confidentiality agreements, he said.
“It’s still arguably the worst day of my life, that day,” said Myers-Power, a senior who underwent shoulder surgery due to the injuries she sustained.“The whole case felt really retraumatizing in a way,” she said. But to finally have a ruling after two-and-a-half years, she said, is a relief.
“I’m feeling good. I’m feeling good about what’s coming up, honestly.”
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