Philadelphia, PA -- (ReleaseWire) -- 07/27/2006 --As nearly 60 people – most of them children – from the Norris Square Day Camp in Philadelphia boarded a bus after a field trip to the Baltimore Aquarium less than two weeks ago, they never imagined that the normally easy drive would become a terrifying ordeal in which one little girl, 8-year-old Deneik Brownlee, would lose her hand.
It happened at approximately 5:15 p.m. on Wednesday, July 5: the school bus in which the children were riding was traveling northbound on I-95 near Aberdeen, Md., when it collided with the cab of a tractor-trailer. The bus careened across the highway and into the median. Its 18-year-old driver was unable to regain control, and the bus re-crossed two lanes of traffic before it turned over on its left side and skidded to a halt on the shoulder of the interstate.
Rescue crews transported children from the chaotic aftermath of the crash to nearby hospitals. Among those children were 8-year-old Deneik Brownlee and her 9-year-old sister, Desha Brownlee. The girls’ mother, Makeba Fitzgerald, was also present that day.
Desha later told reporters that her sister was thrown out of a window during the accident. Tragically, Deneik’s right hand was severed as a result of being pinned beneath the overturned bus frame. Due to the severity of her injuries, which also included multiple fractures to her right elbow, severe trauma to her shoulders and left arm and hand, and emotional distress, Deneik was airlifted to Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore and has since been transferred to an undisclosed hospital where she still remains.
A complaint was filed yesterday (July 18, 2006) in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas by Bernard W. Smalley, Sr., Mark J. LeWinter and Michael L. Barbiero of Anapol Schwartz Weiss Cohan Feldman & Smalley, P.C., and co-counsel Donald Chisholm, II and Anthony Jackson.
According to attorney Smalley, the complaint was filed on behalf of Ms. Fitzgerald and her daughters. Both girls sustained serious and permanent injuries in the violent collision. The complaint also alleges that the bus’s 18-year-old driver, defendant Kevin Talbert, Jr., was reckless and grossly negligent in that he was operating the bus at a dangerous speed; failed to keep a reasonable watch for other vehicles on the road; and was talking on a cellular phone while driving.
In a negligence claim against Talbert’s employer, the Yellowbird Bus Company, Inc., of Philadelphia, the family has also asserted that the bus company knowingly and illegally entrusted the 57 children’s lives to a driver who, under federal law, was incapable of safely undertaking interstate travel. This is because federal law dictates that bus drivers crossing state lines must be at least 21 years of age.
In addition to negligence and punitive damages claims against Talbert and Yellowbird, the family has filed negligence and punitive damages claims against 41-year-old tractor-trailer driver Michael Schultz of Maryland and his Baltimore-based employer, Cowan Systems, Inc.
Mr. Bernie Smalley may be reached for comment by calling 215-735-3864 (office), 215-285-9146 (cell). He may also be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or via fax at 215-875-7704. The alternate contact for Anapol Schwartz is Michael Barbiero who can be reached by calling 215-735-2166 (office), 215-901-2083 (cell) or via e-mail at email@example.com.