Trial begins for man accused of passing stopped school bus, killing student in Kernersville
KERNERSVILLE, N.C. — One of the last things Hasani Wesley did before he walked out of his front door for the last time was give his mother a hug.
“I said ‘Hasani, that’s a nice hug,’” Odina Wesley remembered, sitting on the witness stand in Forsyth Superior Court Tuesday morning.
Wesley said her son was a typical 11-year-old-boy. A sixth-grader at East Forsyth Middle School, he was going through the stage where he didn’t want his mom touching or hugging him much.
“But he came and gave me a hug,” she said. “He didn’t say much. Then he went downstairs.”
It was the last hug she got from her son. He went downstairs and out the front door to catch his school bus. While crossing the street Hasani was hit and killed by a car passing the bus in an on-coming lane.
Billy Roger Bailey, of Old Hollow Road, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and passing a stopped school bus in connection with Hasani’s death on Dec. 19, 2012. Assistant District Attorney Matt Breeding said in opening statements that the impact severed Hasani’s spine. Hasani was rushed to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, where he died.
At issue is whether or not the bus was stopped, with its stop arm down and red lights flashing, when Bailey passed it.
Odina Wesley and several witnesses who testified for the prosecution Tuesday said the bus was completely stopped when Hasani started crossing the road.
Hasani’s mother said she remembers looking out her front door and seeing the red lights flashing.
Joseph Mensch, Hasani’s friend, was on the bus at the time of the accident. Mensch testified that the bus came to a complete stop and that he saw the stop arm extend. Mensch said he watched as his friend waited for the bus to stop before entering the road and then get hit by the car.
“After the Jeep hit him, his shoe hit the bus window where I was sitting,” Mensch said. “In a state of panic, I ran off the bus looking down the road at him.”
Mensch said he looked back at the bus and saw the stop arm still down and red lights flashing.
During opening statements, the defense painted a different picture.
George Cleland, one of Bailey’s attorneys, told the jury they’d hear testimony from several witnesses driving behind Bailey that the bus had not come to a complete stop and did not have its red flashing lights activated when Bailey passed the bus and hit Hasani. Cleland said Bailey will testify because he wants to tell his side of the story.
“As he passed the bus, there was no stop sign, no red lights,” Cleland said. “He never saw him.”
Cleland said Bailey saw flashing amber lights – the bus’ warning lights – come on, but he was driving 45 mph and had already “committed to pass” the bus. Cleland said Bailey knew he’d hit something but didn’t know what.
Stephanie Fulton, the school bus driver, said Hasani was on the side of the road when her bus stopped and had only taken a couple of steps into the roadway when he was hit.
“I couldn’t get God out of my mouth because I was calling for help,” she said.
Fulton said she couldn’t get a clear view of the driver because Hasani’s body was still on the jeep as it passed by.
Odina Wesley testified that she told her son to fight for his life.
“I grabbed his hand and said ‘Please Hasani, fight,’” she said. “That’s when they told me there was nothing else they could do.”