Local News

Family Sues Truck Company After Death Of Girl In Bus Accident

Posted January 23, 2004 5:24 a.m. EST

— Attorney William R. Purcell II of Laurinburg, counsel to Mountaire Farms of North Carolina, said Friday that a lawsuit has been filed against the company by the family of Sheila Hernandez, who was killed in an accident involving a Mountaire Farms driver and a Robeson County school bus.

Investigators said Gary Garnett told them he was reaching for his cell phone and took his eyes off the road when he ran into the back of a school bus, killing Sheila Hernandez. The complaint accuses both Garnett and Mountaire of negligence.

"It's not going to bring Sheila back, but at least, it's something that they can, at least, survive," said Weader Cummings, a friend of the Hernandez family.

"Mountaire Farms has been in contact with the family's attorneys," Purcell said. "We are working to resolve this issue and help the family through this time."

Mountaire Farms said Garnett, who was fired Friday, had not been allowed to drive his rig since the Jan. 13 accident. He had a prior record of traffic violations.

Hernandez's mother, Maria Hernandez-Gutierrez, was injured in the accident. She has been discharged from the hospital.

Earlier in the week, Mountaire Farms vice-president of operations Mike Tirrell released a statement expressing the company's sorrow over the accident.

"On behalf of Mountaire Farms, we are employing all our resources to get to the bottom of what happened and to help those affected by the accident," Tirrell said. "We are taking responsibility for assisting the victim's financially and emotionally.

"Mountaire Farms will continue to support the community that is home to our employees and their families."

An investigation is still under way to determine charges.