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Sep 13, 2013 06:42 AM EDT

UConn Bus Death Lawsuit Settled for $5.5 Million

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The University of Connecticut and Connecticut State have agreed to pay $5.5 million to settle a negligence lawsuit filed by the parents of a student who was killed by a campus shuttle bus in 2011.

David Plamondon, a 20-year-old pre-med student from Westminster, Mass., was fatally injured March 22, 2011, after being run over by the front and back tyres of the bus in a crosswalk at Hillside Road and Alumni Drive.

According to the police officials, the bus driver, fellow UConn student, Lukasz Gilewski, 21, was driving at a speed less than the normal limit, but was distracted for a minute to wave at another bus driver shortly before the accident.

Plamondon's parents, George and Linda Plamondon, filed the lawsuit in July 2011 which also named Gilewski as a defendant. They accused Gilewski for being careless and irresponsible and said that the state was accountable for his misbehavior.

"Dave was gifted in so many ways," Linda said. "As his mother, I feel blessed to have had him for 20 years. He deserved to live his full life."

Gilewski was charged and ultimately pleaded no contest to negligent homicide with a motor vehicle. Instead of jail sentence, he was given two years of probation earlier this year.

Michael J. Walsh of the West Hartford law firm Moukawsher & Walsh, which represented the plaintiffs said that Plamondon was a junior physiology and neurobiology major with a 3.7 grade point average. He wanted to become a doctor. He was also a talented baseball player.

'It is a tragic case,'' Walsh said. ''David Plamondon was really a special kid.''

Plamondon's family claimed that their son's death was avoidable. They urged the university to stop hiring students as bus drivers.

However, instead of banning the about 65 student bus drivers, university authorities have introduced alternative steps to avoid any further mishaps, including an audible warning to pedestrians signalling that a bus is turning,

"I am disappointed with the lack of action of the administrators of UConn to stop the student bus driver program," Linda said. "They say there is not enough evidence to support professional drivers. I believe that David's death speaks volumes of evidence against poorly trained poorly supervised, highly distracted student drivers on a very busy college campus. UConn needs to do more to ensure pedestrian safety on the campus. ... I ask the administration, is this how you would like to be treated if this was your child under that bus?"

Stephanie Reitz, UConn spokeswoman said that student drivers undergo the same rigorous training that is usually offered to people hired for driving school buses, tractor-trailers, coach buses and other huge vehicles. Plus, their performance is closely monitored.  

"The UConn bus drivers also go through additional training to learn the campus routes with a supervisor riding along, and the university has a number of evaluators - whose identities are unknown to the drivers - who regularly ride the buses to monitor drivers' skills and report to UConn officials," Reitz said.

Reitz added that this part-time employment provides them extra money that might help pay for their education.

"David Plamondon's death was tragic and heartbreaking for his family, friends and the entire UConn community," Reitz said. "The University continues to grieve over the loss of such a talented and promising young man. We hope his loved ones receive some measure of comfort in knowing how widely he was admired at UConn and how greatly he is missed."

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