A school bus crash on Jan. 9 killed a Rocky Hill boy on his way to a high school robotics competition and his friends and relatives are convinced seat belts on the bus could have saved him.
"As you know, the children were airborne," said Pratik Parikh, whose son Vikas died in the crash. "We fully believe that our son would be with us today had there been seat belts supporting him.”
Pratik and his wife, Dolly, support a bill requiring seat belts on school buses.
"Just think about it," she told reporters. "It could have been your son or your daughter."
A longtime friend of their son witnessed the teen’s death.
"I saw him fly over the seat," Sameer Laul said. "I saw him hit his head on the window. I saw him in his last moments when he was just lying there in his own pool of blood. If there was a seat belt, he would have been held down. He wouldn't have flown over those three seats."
Their state legislators, Sen. Paul Doyle, D-Wethersfield, and Rep. Tony Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, back a bill requiring seat belts on school buses.
Guerrera is co-chair of the legislature's Transportation Committee, which held a hearing on the bill.
"We're proposing the shoulder harness type" f belt, Guerrera said, "If that seat belt was there, I do believe Vikas would be with us today.
Guerrera said anticipates opposition based on the cost of outfitting school buses with seat belts, but “you can never put an amount of money on anybody's life,"
He said the minimum figure he's heard is $15,000 per bus.
However, the cost is not one of the objections raised by COSTA, the Connecticut School Transportation Association, the school bus operators' group.
"We're very concerned that in the event of an emergency evacuation, not all the students would be able to get off the vehicle safely," said Bill Moore, the COSTA spokesman.
Seat belts might leave students hanging in a rollover, he said. And a bus driver who had to check students' belts at each stop would have to turn off the bus engine, leaving passengers who were waiting outside vulnerable because the bus's warning lights would turn off, he said.
"These things should be part of the discussion," Moore said.