The trial of Billy Roger Bailey, the driver who swerved around a bus and killed an 11-year-old boy in December, 2012, began last week. He is charged with involuntary manslaughter and passing a stopped school bus. One of the main issues is whether or not the school bus was actually stopped with its stop arm down and red lights flashing at the time of the accident.
Naturally, both sides are offering conflicting reports about whether the bus was properly stopped when the boy, Hasani Wesley, a sixth-grader at Forsyth Middle School, was killed.
In early testimony, Odina Wesley, the boy’s mother, and several other witnesses testifying for the prosecution on Tuesday said that the bus was completely stopped. She said she remembers the red lights flashing when she looked out her front door.
But the defense team presented a different scene during opening statements. George Cleland, one of Bailey’s attorneys, told the jury they would hear other witnesses tell the opposite story.
“As he passed the bus, there was no stop sign, no red lights,” Cleland said. “He never saw him.”
“I knew the yellow lights had come on,” Bailey added. “I was looking to see if she was going to stop.
The popular yellow school buses that have become synonymous with field trips and early-morning shenanigans alike first appeared in North America in 1939. Today, millions of kids depend on them to get safely to and from school and extracurricular activities. Safety regulations, like the red stop sign and not passing stopped buses, are vital for keeping them safe.
Regardless of how the trial turns out, parties on both sides of the tragic story are saddened. Even Bailey, a pastor at Cross Roads Ministry of Walkertown who also works at a publishing company and part-time at a gun store, expressed a desire to save the child.
“I noticed something laying behind the bus,” Bailey said. “I went to him. He was face down. I put the back of my hand to his mouth to see if he was still breathing. I assumed that he was.
“Being in the field I was, I just started praying for him.”
Odina Wesley got a hug from her son in the morning, but it was the last one she would ever get.
“I grabbed his hand and said ‘Please Hasani, fight,’” she said. “That’s when they told me there was nothing else they could do.”