Settlement approved for family of girl who died on Hillsborough - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

Settlement approved for family of girl who died on Hillsborough school bus

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Isabella Herrera, age 7, died on a school bus in 2012. Isabella Herrera, age 7, died on a school bus in 2012.

$800,000 will not bring Isabella Herrera back.

Her mother, Lisa, said that Tuesday after an emotional Hillsborough Co. School Board meeting where both she and some school board members were in tears.

"It's very clear that this has become so much bigger than us," Lisa Herrera said Tuesday in front of the board as her voice shook and her eyes filled with tears. "Something very important to us was bringing to light a broken system...a broken system that ultimately cost my daughter her life."

Board members approved the $800,000 settlement Tuesday in Isabella Herrera's case, the 7-year-old girl who died in 2012 after having breathing problems on a school bus. She was a student at Sessums Elementary and suffered from a neuromuscular disease.

An investigation would later show the wheelchair was not tilted back and Herrera's head tilted forward, which cut off her air supply. When the school bus aide realized Herrera was not breathing, she did not call 911. Instead, records show she called the cell phone of Herrera's mother twice during the incident.

The family believes the school system didn't do enough to train employees, including the bus driver.

Family attorney Dan Cotter said depositions revealed it was just the second day on the job for that bus driver.

"She and her colleague had cell phones and were parked right outside of a pediatric clinic... but felt that, due to the way they were trained, they were not allowed to call 911 or go into the clinic and get someone for help," Cotter said.

When Herrera's mother arrived, she found her daughter was not responsive and had turned blue due to a lack of oxygen. Herrera's parents sued the school district as a result of her death.

"I want to believe Bella did not die for nothing," she told board members Tuesday. "So I plead with you. I challenge you: be the example for districts all over that these kids matter ... that their lives have meaning because Bella meant something to us."

All but one board member, April Griffin, voted to accept the $800,000 settlement.

"I do not think that this is enough," Griffin said after the vote.

Her fellow board member, Doretha Edgecomb, spoke directly to Herrera.

"The loss of your daughter has changed how we view ourselves as human beings and the things that we're going to do to make sure that such a tragedy like this never happens again," she said.

The settlement isn't a done deal just yet. A county probate court must approve it Wednesday before it is final.

Jeff Patterson contributed to this report.

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