Channick family sues MTD, driver

A lawyer representing Sarah Channick’s family, the University freshman who was struck and killed by a Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District bus on Sept. 29, announced at noon Thursday that the family is filing a lawsuit against MTD.

Jeffrey J. Kroll of Clifford Law Offices, P.C., Chicago, announced the decision at the Historic Lincoln Hotel, 209 S. Broadway Ave., Urbana, standing in front of poster-size photos of Channick the day before she left for school, her family and the intersection where she died. Kroll said a two-count complaint had been filed against both MTD and Demetra C. Young, the driver of the bus that struck Channick.

“(Channick’s) family did everything they could to keep her safe before she came to college,” Kroll said. “One month later, she was killed.”

The first count of the suit is wrongful death. According to the complaint, the Channick family is alleging Sarah was within the crosswalk from the time she crossed Sixth Street to the time she was hit. They also allege that Young did not keep a sufficient look out and was driving faster than she needed to.

In addition, the Channick family cites that MTD allowed an inexperienced driver to drive a route she was unfamiliar with, and that MTD failed to properly train the driver to operate in high pedestrian areas.

The family is seeking unspecified damages greater than $50,000 per defendant for this count.

The second count of the suit was filed as a survival action, meaning the family is filing on Sarah’s behalf for the damages she suffered after the accident but while she was still alive. The Channick family also is seeking unspecified damages greater than $50,000 per defendant for this count.

At the conference, Kroll said it did not matter that Sarah was on her cell phone when she was struck because she was almost all the way through the intersection. He added that she was on the phone with her mother at the time of the accident. Kroll said he has subpoenaed video of the accident from MTD, which was taken from the bus that struck her.

“(MTD does not) want to accept any responsibility,” Kroll said. “But Sarah was acting responsibly. She was within the crosswalk at all times. She didn’t jet out into the street. She had walked almost all the way across the street by the time the bus hit her on its side.”

MTD’s lawyer, Marc Ansel, said he is not surprised that the family is seeking damages, but that “the true facts will come out in this case.”

He also said that the situation was not as black and white as Kroll made it out to be.

“This is a very complicated situation that a lot of people have been trying to correct long before Mr. Kroll came down from Chicago,” Ansel said.

The family wants to see changes made to MTD, especially with the training program, Kroll said. The training program was reduced from eight to six weeks, and Young only had two weeks driving experience, Kroll said. The changes that have been made since the accident on campus are not enough, Kroll added.

“The family is not satisfied with what has transpired since the accident,” Kroll said. “They are devastated.”

The County Coroner’s office ruled that the death was accidental, but Kroll said the bus driver was negligent.

“This was preventable,” Kroll said.

A 22-Illini bus struck Sarah Channick at approximately 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 29. She died later that night. The last fatal accident on campus prior to Channick’s was on Oct. 27, 2004, when graduate student Carolyn Jeffers was struck and killed by a 26-Pack bus.