Claiborne bus driver charged with manslaughter

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 15, 2000

The driver of the school bus involved in a fatal accident in Claiborne County Monday afternoon has been charged with manslaughter.

Freddie Martin, 56, Port Gibson, was released from the Claiborne County Jail Monday on a $5,000 bond.

Martin, who has driven a bus for the Claiborne County School District for two years, had dropped 6-year-old Ryan Shala off at his grandmother’s house about 3:30 p.m., when the child crossed back in front of the bus and was struck.

The A.W. Watson Elementary student was pronounced dead at the scene.

Port Gibson Chief of Police Calvin Jackson said he doesn’t believe Martin’s actions were intentional and that filing the charge was a preliminary action.

“We think the child was crossing the street and the driver just didn’t see him,” Jackson said.

Martin told police he didn’t realize he had hit the child until another student on the bus told him.

“It will be up to the district attorney to decide if he will be prosecuted,” Jackson said. Claiborne County District Attorney Alexander Martin could not be reached.

Under Mississippi law, a manslaughter conviction is possible if there has been gross negligence or recklessness that resulted in a death.

Dr. Cardell Williams, school superintendent, said the town is still in shock. “We have lost a little angel,” he said.

The other students on the bus have been attending counseling sessions at school since Tuesday morning, Williams said.

“There is a lot of sadness, and we are trying to help the children work through it,” he said.

Services for Ryan will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Christian Chapel Church in Port Gibson.