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Family of pedestrian killed in wreck hires attorney

Posted November 5, 2008
Updated November 6, 2008

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— The family of a UNC Hospitals employee who died last week after being hit by a city bus said Wednesday they are seeking an attorney.

"We're in the process of retaining a lawyer, and we have no public comment at this time," said Carl Hughes, whose daughter, Valerie Hughes, was killed when while trying to cross South Columbia Street at Mason Farm Road.

The bus driver, James Willie Orr, has been fired, and Chapel Hill police charged him Tuesday with misdemeanor death by vehicle.

Orr, 65, had been employed with the town for eight years and was involved in 10 minor wrecks since 2001, including a 2004 incident when his "attention was diverted due to changing radio channels," according to a police report.

He was driving a bus in all but one of them, records show.

Orr did not answer a request for comment Wednesday.

The Town of Chapel Hill won't comment on whether Orr's driving record should have prevented him from driving. It has issued a statement of sympathy to Hughes' family, but has remained quiet otherwise.

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  • RICKJAMES Nov 7, 2008

    I drove a pick up for my current company and got into a minor fender bender, now im sitting here typing! I cant even look at our vehicles until 2010

  • Common Sense Man Nov 6, 2008

    "Yes, there are signs saying to yeild, but I think that if you sit, and sit at a red light, you're looking up waiting for that light to change.When it turns green, you hit the gas and go.If you're looking up as you push the gas,you may very well hit a pedestrian,not realizing that they got their walk light at the same time as you."

    If you drive in any downtown or heavily traveled pedestrian area you should know how pedestrian lights work. This guy drove buses for a living in Chapel Hill and through campus; he knew how the pedestrian lights worked.

  • chickentender63 Nov 6, 2008

    beaver & mpheels, I hope that both of you can get over this as well. This has left a mark on so many people beyond that of the family.

    I wish it never would have happened, but we can't change that now. I just hope everyone finds peace with it somehow and the city will do the right thing and correct the issues that have led to this and other accidents.

    I think it is also sad that at this intersection, you must croos Columbia St and walk down a dirt path to the bus stop. There are no sidewalks on that side of the street, only worn down dirt paths, and they put a bus stop on it, Thats ridiculous!

    The street needs major improving and all motorists need to SLOW DOWN!

  • bottleworks Nov 6, 2008

    "And I dont remember skiding,or sliding to a halt"

    The ATC/ABS system prevents that.

  • beaver Nov 6, 2008

    cont..That day, the temp had dropped,and it was VERY cold and windy,and a misty drizzle had started to fall.If she was looking down,it was probably because the cold wind was beating her in the face.I would like to add,that at this cross,as well as all other cross walks in the area.The pedestrians get the "walk" light at the same time that the turning traffic get their green light to go. Yes, there are signs saying to yeild, but I think that if you sit, and sit at a red light, you're looking up waiting for that light to change.When it turns green, you hit the gas and go.If you're looking up as you push the gas,you may very well hit a pedestrian,not realizing that they got their walk light at the same time as you.But anyway, I think that she may have seen the "walk" light,and was looking down while crossing,due to the hard cold wind.But was she in the cross walk?I do not know.I did not see her until after the accident.But I know where she was laying,& I dont remember the bus sliding.

  • mpheels Nov 6, 2008

    beaver - we have both posted quite a bit about this situation. I do hope that you can find some peace, get help if you need it to cope with this. It's normal to experience what you are, events like this are traumatic for witnesses.

    As far as where Valerie was and where the bus came to a stop, buses cannot stop on a dime. Even with out skidding/sliding, a bus will travel some distance before coming to a complete stop because the mass of bus (especially and double/articulated bus) causes a lot of momentum. It's really not surprising that the bus traveled as far as it did from the cross walk after the driver hit the brakes.

  • ifcdirector Nov 6, 2008

    That's because it wouldn't have been "Politically Correct" to fire him no matter what. That very premise is why no one should be doing much of anything in a town that would set that above even public safety issues.

  • beaver Nov 6, 2008

    As a passenger on the bus at the time of this accident,I must voice my opinion.I am VERY sorry for the family and friends of this young lady.I have not slept good since the accident.So I know that the families pain must be awful.At the same time,I know that it was an accident.And I also feel sorry for the driver for the pain that he is feeling.The poor man went into a state of shock after the accident.I know that I would have too.As for who was at "fault",I say no one.She was under the right FRONT tire of the bus.If you look at the video(because none of the pics from the story showed the front of the bus, only the end)you will see that the part of the bus that struck her,was well beyond the cross walk.And I dont remember skiding,or sliding to a halt.We were not going fast enough to slide.At the time that I heard the impact,the bus stoped very abruptly, therefor,I think that had she been knocked that far, then she wouldnt have ended up under tire.

  • LaLa-Land Nov 6, 2008

    I feel so sorry for her family as I am certain they are devastated and angry over this senseless loss of their beautiful daughter. I would do the same thing they are doing. I hope they clean 'em out.

  • Common Sense Man Nov 6, 2008

    "Keep in mind; you don't know what those other "accidents" were. Scrapping the sidewalk & busting a tire would be written as an "accident""

    Uhhhhhh, no it wouldn't. And like I posted earlier, UNC PD investigated two accidents, so that "ups" the total to 13 including the fatality.

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