Colorado bus driver should have seen 11-year-old running to catch bus moments before her death, lawsuit alleges

The school bus driver pulling away from a stop in Parachute in March didn’t look at his mirror or heed warnings from other riders moments before he ran over and killed an 11-year-old girl, her parents allege in a new federal lawsuit.

Annaliese Backner died early in the morning of March 3 after tripping and falling under the bus’s wheel while running to catch the ride to school.

Authorities declined to press charges against the driver, Steven Shaw, who showed no signs of distraction, had a valid driver’s license and was not impaired when the tragedy occurred, according to a Colorado State Patrol crash report. The Garfield County coroner ruled the manner of death to be an accident.

But Brandon and Leandra Backner, the girl’s parents, and their attorney say Shaw never glanced at his passenger-side mirror, which would have shown Annaliese running to catch the bus, according to the complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Denver. The lawsuit names Shaw as well as Garfield County School District #16 as defendants.

An attorney for the school district on Friday said he could not immediately comment on the lawsuit.

“If he looked, there’s no way he wouldn’t have seen that child trying to keep pace and get his attention,” said Chad Hemmat, the Backners’ attorney, in an interview Friday morning.

He noted that drivers are taught to “clear their mirrors” — especially in what are referred to as “danger zones.”

Children on the bus also vocalized to the driver that the girl was running beside the bus, the parents claim, citing video and witness accounts.

“It seems abundantly clear that the conclusions from Colorado State Patrol are vastly different than our conclusions,” Hemmat said.

Video captured from a bus camera shows that the driver “appears to be looking down Columbine Drive when the collision occurred,” the state patrol said in its report. He was driving 6 mph at the time the 11-year-old was run over.

Shaw had a clean driving record, with no traffic violations or license issues.

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