Driver accused of killing 11-year-old: ‘I just started praying for him’
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Billy Roger Bailey, the driver accused of passing a stopped school bus and hitting and killing 11-year-old Hasani Wesley in December 2012, testified Thursday that he didn’t see Hasani as the boy crossed the road.
Bailey, who is on trial in Forsyth Superior Court this week on charges of involuntary manslaughter and passing a stopped school bus in Hasani’s death, took the stand in his own defense Thursday – the third day of testimony in the case.
Bailey said that the school bus’ yellow warning lights were flashing but it had not stopped when he passed it.
He also said he did not slow down for the bus.
“We passed each other,” he said. “That’s when I struck something.”
Bailey said that he never saw anyone in the road and was not sure what he had hit until he’d pulled off to the side of the road and walked up on the boy’s body, which was lying in the road behind the school bus.
“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.”
Bailey is a pastor at Cross Roads Ministry of Walkertown and also works for a publishing company and part-time at a gun store. He was on his way to work, driving south on Old Hollow Road in a 1999 Jeep Cherokee when he hit Hasani, who was crossing the road to catch his school bus.
Didn’t slow down
Wednesday, a crash reconstruction specialist, testified that Bailey was driving about 46 miles per hour when he stuck Hasani, who later died from his injuries at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
Trooper Brian K. Palmiter of the N.C. Highway Patrol testified that the impact threw the boy about 125 from where he was hit.
The force of the blow severed his spinal cord, according to testimony Thursday from Dr. Donald Jason, Forsyth County’s medical examiner. Jason testified that Hasani also had injuries to his legs, body and face consistent with being hit by the Jeep. Jason said Hasani was hit first in the leg, which pitched his body forward onto the hood of the Jeep.
Jason said Hasani would have felt that initial blow, but would not have been able to feel anything from the neck down after his spinal cord was severed.
Bailey testified that he saw the yellow flashing lights of the school bus, but did not slow down. He said he cannot recall if he took his foot off the accelerator. Bailey said he drives that road every morning to go to work and knew there was a bus stop at that location, but the bus usually stops to pick up children on the other side of the road.
Hasani had missed his bus, which stops near his home on Shaddowfax Drive in Kernersville. The bus had traveled south on Old Hollow Road and turned around to head back north. Hasani was crossing the southbound lane of Old Hollow Road to reach the bus when he was hit. Even after hitting Hasani, Bailey said he did not see him or know what he had hit.
‘A clear view’
Palmiter, the crash reconstruction specialist, said he thought Bailey may have been distracted at the time of the accident.
“Hasani Wesley was struck right in front of the driver,” Palmiter said. “He had a clear view, no more than a few feet from the driver.”
Palmiter said that phone records pulled from Bailey’s cellphone provider do not match data pulled from his phone by investigators. It indicated that two calls placed between 6:19 a.m. and 7:04 a.m. had been deleted from the call log. Those records did not indicate that Bailey was on the phone at the time of the accident, though. Palmiter said there is no way to know if Bailey was crafting a phone call or text message at the time of the accident.
Bailey testified that he was not on his phone or otherwise distracted.
“I knew the yellow lights had come on,” he said. “I was looking to see if she was going to stop.”
Bailey later testified that he thought the bus was going to turn right into the subdivision, as he’d seen it do before.
At issue in the trial is whether the bus was stopped, with its stoparm down and red lights flashing, when Bailey passed it and hit Hasani. Bailey said the bus was not stopped and only had its yellow flashing lights activated.
David Martin, who drove up on the scene behind Bailey, said he saw only the flashing yellow lights and never saw flashing red lights or the bus’ stoparm deployed.
Palmiter said that it was his opinion – based on physical evidence, bus GPS data and several witness statements – that the bus was stopped with its stoparm down and red lights flashing when the accident occurred.
Courts are closed Friday for the Easter holiday. The trial will continue Monday with additional witnesses for the defense.