C-Tran driver won't be charged in 11-year-old's death

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

Published:

Updated: January 10, 2013, 7:27 PM

 
photoBenjamin Fulwiler

A C-Tran bus driver will not face criminal charges in the death of an 11-year-old bicyclist in a collision between a bike and bus April 28 in west downtown Vancouver, according to a Clark County Prosecuting Attorney's Office decision released today.

Deborah Knox, 59, of Vancouver has been on paid leave since the collision that killed Benjamin Fulwiler, pending a Vancouver police investigation and review by Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kasey Vu.

Benjamin died after Knox made a left-hand turn from southbound Main to eastbound 27th and Benjamin entered the intersection on his bicycle from a parking lot of a Dairy Queen near the intersection.

Benjamin collided with the side of the bus in the vicinity of the crosswalk and struck the bus on the driver’s side several feet behind the bus driver, according to Vu’s written decision. Benjamin then fell to the ground and was run over by the driver’s side rear-end tires as the bus completed the left turn.

The investigation showed that Knox was driving in “a normal fashion” and the bus was traveling its normal route, according to Vu’s report. Surveillance on the bus and witnesses indicated Benjamin ran into the side of the bus, rather than Knox striking him, Vu wrote.

Benjamin’s family has alleged that the left turn at Main and 27th on Route 37 is dangerous and has requested that C-Tran alter it. C-Tran reviewed the route and determined it to be safer than some other alternatives, said C-Tran spokesman Scott Patterson. The agency has no plans to change the route, he said.

Jim Sellers, attorney for Benjamin’s father, Dustin Fulwiler, said the family has no comment on the prosecutor’s decision. They are considering filing a civil suit against C-Tran.

“It’s that (prosecuting attorney’s) office’s role to make that decision, which really has absolutely nothing to do with a civil claim,” Sellers said. “We haven’t done anything on that yet in part because we were waiting to see how the criminal case developed.”

He said a tort claim, a prerequisite to a lawsuit, would likely be filed with C-Tran in the first half of this year.

The prosecutor’s decision should help C-Tran wrap up its internal investigation of the accident, Patterson said. The outcome of that investigation will determine Knox’s future employment options with the agency, which will likely include returning as a driver, he said.

“Everything we have certainly points to the conclusion reached by the authorities in this case,” Patterson said. “Given that, should she want to, she’ll be afforded the opportunity to return to the driving ranks.”

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551; http://twitter.com/Col_Courts; http://facebook.com/ColTrends; paris.achen@columbian.com.