The parents of a student who was burned by hot antifreeze while riding a Union County Public Schools bus are speaking out for the first time since the incident.
The 13-year-old girl was riding the bus home from Porter Ridge Middle School when a heater hose leaked in the rear of the bus she was riding.
The student was taken to the hospital and treated for burns on her legs and feet. Four other students were injured but not hospitalized.
Marty and Lisa Shuler described the frantic moments after they learned their daughter had been injured in a school bus incident less than a mile from her house.
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It’s such a simple fix. And the fact that they knew about it ahead of time, I don’t even know what to say.
Lisa Shuler said she was called by one of her daughter’s friends who said there had been an accident. She said she hung up the phone and then called back because she thought it may have been a prank. When she called the second time, she said, she could hear her daughter screaming in pain in the background.
Marty Shuler, who was at home when his wife called and told him about the incident, said he rushed to the scene and found chaos. A paramedic was working on his daughter, who he said was shaking with pain.
The bus, a 1998 Thomas MVP rear engine bus, was the subject of a memo from state transportation officials more than a year before the incident warning the heater hose could leak hot antifreeze and injure students. School transportation leaders were advised to replace a plastic connector part with a metal part to prevent such leaks.
In the days following the incident, a WBTV investigation found that UCPS transportation officials did not replace the part as recommended.
“I just don’t understand, I just kind of shake my head,” Lisa Shuler said. “It’s such a simple fix. And the fact that they knew about it ahead of time, I don’t even know what to say.”
Weeks after the incident, attorney William Goldfarb filed a complaint against Union County Public Schools and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction on behalf of Shuler and her family.
The complaint claims the school district and officials NCDPI, which owns the bus, did not do enough to adequately maintain the bus to prevent the leak.
Spokeswoman for both NCDPI and UCPS declined to respond to the complaint at the time it was filed.
State transportation officials issued a second directive to all districts operating Thomas rear engine MVP buses ordering plastic connectors on heater hoses to be replaced by August.
A UCPS spokeswoman has said the school district will comply with the state directive but did not provide a specific timeline for when the part will be replaced.