The family of a 7-year-old Park Forest boy who died Jan. 20 after being hit by a school bus near his home has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the bus company and its driver.
The complaint, filed Thursday in Cook County circuit court, also names Park Forest-Chicago Heights Elementary District 163 and seeks damages in excess of $50,000.
Connor Ethan Kaczmarski had been dropped off by the bus near his home, in the 100 block of Walnut Street. He was a second grader at Mohawk Primary Center.
The driver, Darryl Downs, 62, of Lynwood, is charged with a misdemeanor offense of not having a valid commercial driver’s license at the time of the accident, according to Park Forest police.
The complaint alleges Downs was negligent and left the child in the street as others called an ambulance.
“In addition to having no driver’s license to operate a school bus, the driver failed to follow state law in ensuring that he not move his vehicle until his young passenger crossed in front of the bus at least 10 feet away,” Bradley Cosgrove, a partner with Clifford Law Offices, said Thursday in a news release announcing the lawsuit’s filing.
The accident occurred shortly after 3 p.m. and Kaczmarski was taken to Franciscan Health Olympia Fields Hospital were he died a short time later.
Police said an investigation showed that, at the time the boy was hit, the bus driver was turning the corner from the last stop and the boy was running alongside the passenger side when he stepped into the path of the bus.
There is no indication the driver was aware the bus had been involved in a crash or had struck the child, police said.
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The bus company, Kickert Bus Lines, its parent company, Cook-Illinois Corp., and Downs acted with “a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property,” the complaint alleges.
Downs operated the bus “without keeping a proper and sufficient lookout for pedestrians,” the complaint alleges.
The complaint was filed on behalf of Kaczmarski’s mother, Rockeal King.
Police said the investigation included interviews with witnesses and the driver as well as reviewing video from cameras on the bus and video footage from homes near where the accident occurred.
Police said a review of records showed that the commercial driver’s license that had been issued to the driver was canceled Jan. 8 due to a failure to provide medical examination documentation to the Illinois secretary of state’s office.
Downs is scheduled to appear at the Markham courthouse March 31, according to police.