The parents of three children killed last year at a school bus stop in Fulton County believe they are getting a measure of justice with a new law that toughens penalties for motorists who sail past buses loading students.
Brittany and Shane Ingle, with daughter, Selena Stahl, stood behind Gov. Eric Holcomb Wednesday as he signed Senate Enrolled Act 2 in a ceremony designed to put a focus on school bus safety. The measure, which takes effect July 1, had been signed by the governor May 1.
“There’s three empty chairs at the dinner table,” Shane Ingle said afterward. “It’s hard to keep going.”
Alivia Stahl and her twin brothers, Xzavier and Mason Ingle, were hit and killed last October after Alyssa Shepherd, on her way to work, failed to stop for a school bus as the children crossed the street. The bus lights were flashing and the stop arm was extended.
Shepherd goes to trial in October on three counts of reckless homicide, one count of criminal recklessness and one count of passing a school bus with its safety arm extended.
Within months of the accident, the Ingles began working with state lawmakers and other local officials to change the law to make passing a stopped school bus a more serious violation. After Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, introduced the school bus safety bill, the Ingles were a regular presence at the Statehouse where they attended committee meetings and Senate and House sessions when the bill was being heard.
From the beginning, the Ingles said their goal was to fight for justice for their children.
“We put a lot of our energy right after the accident into this,” Shane Ingle said.
Senate Enrolled Act 2 makes running a school bus stop sign a Class A misdemeanor, up from a Class B misdemeanor. If the action results in injury, it is a Level 6 felony, and if the action results in a death it is a Level 5 felony, which carries a penalty of one to six years in prison.
Under current law, running a school bus stop sign resulting in injury or death is a Class A misdemeanor. However, prosecutors typically seek charges of reckless homicide if the accident resulted in death because of the more serious penalty.
After the bill signing, Head said that even though the sentences for reckless homicide and running a school bus stop sign resulting in death are the same, the new law makes it easier to file the more serious felony charge. With reckless homicide, prosecutors must prove that the driver had conscious disregard during the time of the accident.
“If you run the stop arm or flashing lights, and a child dies as a result of that, the state doesn’t have to prove your mental state,” Head said of the new law.
At the signing ceremony, Holcomb turned to the family and thanked them for their hard work to get the bill into law.
He said that the bill is a great step in the right direction, adding, “Hopefully we will be able to keep a light on this. But we have more work to do and this is progress.”
After the event, attended by the Ingles’ friends, family and lawmakers, Holcomb paused from his packed schedule of ceremonial bill signings to speak with the family one-on-one.
Working on the legislation served as a healing tool, Shane Ingle told Holcomb, “We honestly didn’t think it would be this quick.”
Holcomb then slipped a card with his personal number to Brittany Ingle, telling the family to use it if they needed to reach out.
Holcomb then spoke briefly with Selena, the Ingles’ daughter, ending their conversation with a smile and a high-five.
The family has decided to finally take time to heal. Because they have spent much of their time in the past seven months since their children’s death at the Statehouse, they plan on taking a breath.
“I didn’t want my children to die in vain,” Brittany Ingle said. “Today proves that they didn’t die in vain, and that my children are in front, saving other kids’ lives.”