Continuance granted for bus driver charged in deadly Athens school bus wreck

Continuance granted for bus driver charged in deadly Athens school bus wreck
The Athens ISD bus driver charged in a fatal school bus wreck was back in court Thursday afternoon. John Stevens, 78, of Mabank, is charged with injury to a child causing serious bodily injury and manslaughter/criminally negligent homicide. (Arthur Clayborn/KLTV Photojournalist) (Source: Arthur Clayborn/KLTV)

HENDERSON COUNTY, TEXAS (KLTV) - An Athens ISD bus driver charged in a fatal school bus wreck was back in court Thursday afternoon.

John Stevens, 78, of Mabank, is charged with injury to a child causing serious bodily injury and manslaughter/criminally negligent homicide.

He was in court Thursday for a discovery hearing. His defense attorney Justin Weiner was granted a continuance as they wait for more information to be turned over in the case.

“We requested information from the black box, and we were told originally that that information had been subpoenaed and wasn’t in possession of the district attorney. It turns out that it was. Oversight by the DA himself," Weiner said. “Ultimately, they did have it and that has been turned over us and it was turned over promptly. There’s some additional information, discovery that we’ve requested. We believe that they’re doing their best effort to try and get it to us as quickly as possible.”

Stevens was driving a bus that was southbound on Cream Level Road as it approached the railroad crossing. The bus came to a stop, according to the investigation, but then continued across the tracks, directly in front of a westbound Union Pacific train.

Chopper 7 footage of horrific collisions between an Athens ISD school bus and a train.
Chopper 7 footage of horrific collisions between an Athens ISD school bus and a train.

The train hit the bus on its left side, and the bus became lodged on the locomotive. The train and bus then traveled about a quarter of a mile down the track before coming to a stop at the Murchison Street crossing.

Christopher Bonilla, a 13-year-old Athens Middle School student, was killed in the crash. A student from Central Athens Elementary, 9-year-old Joselyne Torres, was injured when she was trapped inside the bus.

Christopher Bonilla, a 13-year-old student at Athens Middle School, died in a crash involving a school bus and a train. (Source: Athens ISD)
Christopher Bonilla, a 13-year-old student at Athens Middle School, died in a crash involving a school bus and a train. (Source: Athens ISD)

There were no automated arms or warning lights at the Cream Level Road location. It was marked with crossbuck and yield signs.

In July, Stevens pleaded not guilty to both charges.

Another discovery hearing is set for Oct. 10 and a pretrial hearing is set for Nov. 7. No trial date has been set.

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