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Lawsuit over Springville child killed by school bus is settled for $450,000

A lawsuit stemming from the death of a Springville elementary school student, who was run over by a school bus in 2016, has been settled for $450,000, court papers indicate.

Alyssa R. Hearn was 7 when she got off the bus at around 3:30 on a November afternoon and walked in front of it. The bus rolled over the child as the driver continued on her route.

The driver, Laurie A. King, told an Erie County Sheriff's deputy she unaware a second child had disembarked from the bus, the accident report indicates. The bus was not equipped with an aide to escort pupils or an optional crossing arm, which forces them to walk further out in front of the bus to make it easier for the driver to see them.

Hearn was struck "in full view" of her brother, who had gotten off the bus before her, and her mother, Katie Fuller, court papers say. Fuller was working her Friday afternoon shift as a hair stylist at the DonChelle Salon Spa on East Main Street and, as usual, was coming out to greet the children, friends of the family said in 2016.

"The global settlement was for $450,000," an attorney for the family, Ryan F. McCann, told a State Supreme Court judge a few weeks ago as he sought approval for the sum being set aside for Alyssa's brother Kyle. The settlement will be paid by an insurer for the Springville-Griffith Institute Central School District, which owned the bus and employed the driver. McCann did not return telephone messages seeking further comment.

School Superintendent Kimberly Moritz would not confirm the settlement amount but said, "No amount of money can ever fill the void left by Alyssa’s untimely death."

"We hope, however, that the resolution of this matter allows Alyssa’s family at least some solace, while avoiding them having to endure a public trial regarding her death," Moritz said. "Losing Alyssa is one of the most difficult tragedies that our community has ever suffered, and we continue to express our love and sympathy to her family.”

The child's death galvanized the community. Mourners and well-wishers set up makeshift memorials – with  flowers, stuffed animals and candles – on both sides of East Main Street. Family friends set up a vigil — on the football field, because Alyssa enjoyed cheerleading and was a member of a peewee cheerleading squad.

Alyssa was a “happy, sweet girl” who enjoyed getting her nails painted in the salon and "had a smile as big as the room," Laken Croakman told The Buffalo News in 2016. Croakman, who worked at the hair salon, set up a GoFundMe page to help the family pay funeral expenses.

The official accident report indicates the weather was clear Nov. 4, 2016, as the bus made its way along East Main Street at around 3:30 p.m. With 25 people aboard, the vehicle stopped about 95 feet east of North Buffalo Road. That's when Alyssa and Kyle got off the bus.

The driver told a deputy that she was distracted by a non-student pedestrian on the sidewalk as the boy passed by the front of the bus, and she was unaware Alyssa had gotten off and was trailing her brother. The bus rolled over the girl and continued on for some 70 feet, the accident report said.

The driver, who resigned, was never criminally charged, but she was penalized. Her license was suspended for 75 days after being convicted in village court of a traffic citation, failure to use due care, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles. King's license was then suspended for a year, a DMV spokesman said, after a separate fatal-crash hearing held by the agency.

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