School bus driver charged in fatal auto-pedestrian crash of Jordan High student

Aug 18, 2023, 10:04 AM | Updated: Nov 3, 2023, 3:54 pm

police car and school bus...

Sandy police investigate the scene of a fatal school bus and pedestrian accident on on Jan. 27, 2023. The school bus driver who hit and killed the Jordan High School student now faces a charge of negligent homicide. (Ryan Sun/Deseret News)

(Ryan Sun/Deseret News)

SANDY, Utah — A school bus driver who hit and killed a Jordan High School student in a crosswalk earlier this year had been in six accidents since 2018, according to police.

Gary Arden Rollins, 71, of Sandy, was charged Thursday in 3rd District Court with negligent homicide, a class A misdemeanor, and failing to yield to a pedestrian, an infraction.

On Jan. 27, Rollins was driving a bus for the Canyons School District with 16 Hillcrest High School students on board, when he hit 15-year-old Jennifer Flores Diaz at the intersection of 8375 S. State.

Investigators say Rollins was waiting to make a left turn and Jennifer had activated the crosswalk signal button and was waiting on the sidewalk on State Street.

“After a short wait period, the light turned green, and Rollins proceeded to enter the intersection and made a left-hand turn. At the same time, (Jennifer) proceeded to walk through the marked crosswalk on a white ‘walk’ signal. Rollins failed to yield to (Jennifer) who was within the marked section of the crosswalk,” according to charging documents.

The front corner of the school bus hit Jennifer, knocking her to the ground.

“Once on the ground (she) was run over by the driver side front wheel, and the driver side rear wheel,” the charges state.

Witnesses yelled at Rollins to stop because he hit someone, then yelled at him to move the bus because Jennifer was partially trapped underneath the rear wheel when it stopped, according to the charges. But after releasing the brake, causing the bus to roll backward, Rollins drove forward and ran over Jennifer a third time.

“Video analysis confirmed that Rollins was holding a route map in his hands and reviewed it multiple times during the drive. While waiting at the red light, video showed that Rollins reviewed the route map, then set it aside to proceed through the intersection after the light turned green,” the charges state.

Investigators say as he was turning, Rollins’ attention was on the vehicles stopped at the light and not the portion of the crosswalk that Jennifer was in.

Police say Rollins has been involved in six accidents causing property damage while driving a school bus since 2018.

Jeffrey P. Haney, Communications Director for Canyons School District said training records of the Canyons District Transportation Department show that Rollins was given “substantial training” in his first year as a school bus driver.

He earned his CDL, which is required to drive a school bus and participated in three additional training courses between Aug. 2018 and Oct. 2019, provided by the district’s transportation department.

“During that time, he was involved in six minor accidents, which ranged from clipping a side mirror of another school bus and hitting a trailer hitch that was attached to a parked car. No physical injuries were reported, and no police citations were given in any of the incidents,” Haney said.  “Over the next four years, he did not have another accident until January 2023,  according to records.”

Haney released the following statement about new improved safety measures for school buses:

“In the past six months, Canyons District has invested in advancing the safety measures on Canyons school buses. Not only are bus drivers provided thorough and ongoing training, but a state-of-the-art GPS and Artificial Intelligence-powered safe-driving system has been installed on all 185 of Canyons buses. This $500,000 system can immediately detect if a driver is ill, injured or distracted, and within seconds will alert district officials if irregular driving patterns are detected. The new safety-driving system, coupled with regular training for bus drivers, add to the safety and security initiatives of Canyons District.”

Eliza Pace contributed to this report.

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School bus driver charged in fatal auto-pedestrian crash of Jordan High student