A Los Angeles student who survived a fiery collision between a tour bus and a FedEx truck in Northern California last month said today that he had to kick out a window to escape and is suing FedEx Corp. and the bus owners.
The negligence suit, filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of 18-year-old Miles Hill of Mt. Washington, also names Silverado Stages, the San Luis Obispo-based owners of the charter bus, which had been carrying college-bound students to Humboldt State University for a tour.
It was the second such suit filed in Los Angeles in connection with the April 10 crash, in which five students and five adults were killed when the tour bus was struck head-on by the FedEx truck on the Golden State (5) Freeway in Orland.
Hill suffered a broken collarbone and burns. In a news conference outside the County Courthouse today in which he and his lawyers announced the filing of the lawsuit, Hill said he was fortunate to be alive given that he was seated behind the driver and near the front of the bus.
"I shouldn't be here," Hill said.
Hill said he tried to stay calm and still be of assistance to others while trying to escape. But he said he was doing what anyone else would under the circumstances.
"I wouldn't call myself a hero," he said.
Hill, a student at the Renaissance Arts Academy in Eagle Rock, said he did not know beforehand how to get out of the bus in case of an emergency.
"There were no safety instructions," he said.
His father said he did not immediately know where his son was taken after the accident or his condition.
"From that moment until I saw him, it was sheer terror," Gaylord Hill said.
He described his son as "pretty level-headed" and said he hopes the lawsuit will help prevent similar situations from happening to others.
FedEx spokeswoman Bonnie Kourvelas could not be immediately reached for comment. However, she issued a statement on behalf of the company after the first suit against FedEx was filed on April 22 by the mother of Dorsey High School student Jennifer Bonilla, who was killed in the accident.
That statement said the company was "focused on providing support to those affected and cooperating with the authorities as they conduct their investigation. This is not the time for us to discuss potential litigation."
The Hill lawsuit, which seeks unspecified compensatory damages and compensation for medical expenses, alleges FedEx driver Timothy Evans -- who was killed in the crash -- negligently crossed from the southbound lanes of the freeway into the path of the northbound bus.
The plaintiff alleges the company failed to inspect the big rig to make sure it was safe to operate and would not create "an unreasonable risk of injury" to others, and further alleges that the Silverado tour bus did not have a safe method of escape in the event of such an emergency, causing Hill to be trapped inside for a time.
"I was in a field across from the bus. The bus was on fire, and my head
was bleeding," he recalled today. "There were burns all over me and I was
in massive amounts of pain. But I wasn't trying to focus on that. I was trying
to stay calm and think about, 'I'm going to make it out of this. I'm going to
—City News Service