LAKELAND, Fla. -- 14-year-old Lakeland High student Katlyn Rickman was hit and killed by a school bus on January 17 at 3:06 p.m. It happened just a few streets away from her home.
On Monday, the bus driver accused of hitting her, Virginia Harris Robinson, was not criminally charged, but investigators with the Lakeland Police Department concluded she was at fault in this fatal crash. She was issued a traffic citation for failing to yield the right-of-way.
Robinson is no longer working as a substitute driver but she is currently a substitute bus attendant which does not include driving responsibilities according to Fred Murphy. Murphy is the Assistant Superintendent for the Polk County School District Transportation Department.
A witness is now recalling that tragic afternoon, and the family has issued a statement through a family spokesperson who once taught their daughter. Kris Mela says, "They're not happy about the decision. Now they're reliving the loss all over again."
Not only did Jeff Jones witness the crash, 30 students who were on the bus that day did as well. Jones was driving behind the school bus with his 9-year-old son. He says, "I couldn't believe she didn't see her. She bounced right off the front glass, right where the driver's at."
Even though Jones struggles to get around with a cane, he sprang into action that day. He says, "I, of course, can't run. I jumped out and yelled for [Robinson] to pull forward."
Jones says he's stunned at the Lakeland Police Department's decision to only issue the bus driver a citation in the crash. "The girl was already in the cross walk. She was in a marked cross walk with flashing yellow lights and she had started to cross before the bus ever turned left. So, I mean, pedestrians have the right-of-way, especially in a school zone."
But Lakeland police maintain Virginia Robinson didn't see Katlyn before she hit her. Officer Michael Catalano says, "The child made it into the cross walk. By the time the bus driver was partially into the turn, the child was in a blind spot on the corner of the bus and the child was impacted on the left side tire and then rolled up under the bus."
Officer Catalano says after their investigation they determined they just couldn't bring criminal charges against Robinson. He adds, "For vehicular homicide, for one we have to be able to prove intent, meaning the operator in the vehicle had an intent to do it."
Catalano says they also have to be able to prove that it was done in a reckless manner. He says, "She says, 'I didn't realize that I had hit somebody until one of the people that was in the car behind me, I saw them running in my mirror, and I looked out my window and I saw them yelling at me.'"