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Lawsuit: Parents claim Garfield Co. bus driver didn't check mirrors before their daughter was run over, killed

Annaliese Backner_Parachute bus crash.jpg
Posted at 2:16 PM, Jul 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-08 16:35:12-04

GARFIELD COUNTY, Colo. — The parents of an 11-year-old in Parachute who died after she tripped into her school bus and was run over have filed a lawsuit against the bus driver and the school district, accusing the driver of not checking his side mirrors to see the sixth-grader running alongside the bus.

The lawsuit was filed by Annaliese Backner's parents, Brandon Backner and Leandra Backner, on Thursday against the bus driver and Garfield County School District #16. The Denver Post was the first to report the lawsuit Friday.

On March 3 at 7:23 a.m., the bus driver was driving in Parachute. He had just pressed on the accelerator after picking up children at one of the bus stops on Meadow Drive. As he was pulling away from the stop, Annaliese Backner ran alongside the passenger side of the moving bus, as captured on interior surveillance video, according to the lawsuit.

Girl, 11, dies after tripping in front of moving school bus in Parachute

As she ran next to the vehicle, the bus driver continued down the street and did not look at his passenger-side mirror, the lawsuit claims. According to witnesses and the video surveillance, the students on the bus tried to tell the driver about Annaliese Backner running outside. The driver did not react, according to the lawsuit.

While she was running, the young girl lost her balance and fell into the street. At the time, she was just a few feet away from what "properly trained drivers are taught is the 'danger zone,'" the lawsuit reads. The driver appeared unaware that she was there until the back tire rolled completely over her body, "thereby causing the child profound injuries and near instant death," according to the lawsuit.

The Parachute Police Department, which responded to the scene, said she was pronounced deceased at the scene.

Annaliese Backner was a sixth-grader at Grand Valley Middle School in Parachute.

The day after the crash, the Garfield County Coroner’s Office identified the young girl, and said the cause of death was blunt force injuries and the manner was accidental.

According to The Denver Post, a Colorado State Patrol report found that the driver had a valid license, a clean driving record, and was not distracted or impaired. He had been driving 6 mph at the time of the crash.

Parents Brandon Backner and Leandra Backner asserted wrongful death damage against the bus driver in the lawsuit and claimed he "failed to exercise the highest degree of care and at least slightly, if not greatly, deviated from that degree of caution, care and diligence that a common carrier is required to maintain, and as such was negligent."

In addition, they made a second claim for relief against the school district, claiming it should cover the funeral and burial expenses, as well as the financial loss of the child, which includes "grief, loss of companionship, impairment of the quality of their life, inconvenience, pain and suffering, and emotional distress," the lawsuit reads.

Parachute is a small municipality along I-70 in Garfield County between Rifle and Grand Junction.